Episode Fourteen: An Appeal to Steve Jobs

Dangling under the Spartan C27T, Eve sailed over the city of Cairo like an Egyptian version of Peter Pan. As they reached the ocean, the turboprop’s hoist began to reel in the lift line to pull her up to the fuselage. A Yahoo airman offered a hand to help her through the pickup door into the cargo hold.
“You have ten minutes to target, Doctor Zachara.”
Eve nodded and he helped remove the air-harness over her uniform. Nearby, the support team had neatly arranged all the equipment Eve had requested. Without hesitation, Eve stripped off her remaining clothes and they helped her into a dark grey wetsuit. She began to check over the explosives as the kinetics engineer looked on.
“No electronics?”
“Absolutely, ma’am. Just as you instructed.” the engineer replied.
“What did you find for denominators?”
“Mechanical matches. WWII style. You click them into the mines here and…”
“I got it. I’m familiar with these.”
“But be sure to…”
“I got it.” Eve said, firmer. She packed the explosives into a plastic mesh backpack. With Cairo taken and Yahoo closing on Tripoli, the bulk of Google’s Mediterranean Fleet had fallen to Mers-El-Kébir to refuel. Algeria was likely to fall next, so the fleet might wait to rescue Google’s retreating armies, or, more likely for Google, simply abandon them after refueling. From there they might make a dash for the Atlantic, in which case they would risk being destroyed by Amazon’s long range rail guns in Gibraltar. The greater concern would be that they would head for Barcelona or Marseille, to support Google’s hold in Europe. Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington had assembled a small battle fleet of arsenal missile ships which had taken off from Kalamata to launch a surprise attack on Mers-El-Kébir. Eve’s plan was to sink one of the battle cruisers herself with an underwater directional charge planted just below the waterline. She hoped to get one close enough to the port entrance to block the other ships from escaping. Or, at minimum, in the chaos of the sinking, the fleet would be delayed long enough for the arsenal ships to arrive and launch their attack.
The problem, of course, with any individual act of sabotage was that the port was outfitted with electronic sensors to detect drones, submersibles or anything else with an electrical signature including modern scuba equipment and timed explosives. The mission required someone who could swim in alone from a mile out at sea, unaided by watercraft, plant a conventional explosive mine and set it off without being detected. It was an impossible feat for even the best underwater demolition expert, so Eve decided to do it personally.
The Spartan reached the Gulf of Oran and dropped as low as possible, skimming over the tips of the waves. Eve lept out of the cargo door without a parachute and dove into the sea below. Even at the low altitude she hit hard and plunged down deeply. But after her steamy jungle and burning desert treks, the dark cold waters felt refreshing.

A Kensington Security guard in full riot police gear glanced suspiciously at Eve’s ID badge as she held it out of the window of her Porsche. When he realized who she was, it became obvious he was a smitten fanboy, even with his reaction hidden behind his helmet’s darkened face shield. He quickly returned her badge but his helmet tilted back and forth as he tried to steal a couple extra glances at her cleavage. “Welcome Eve… Miss… Doctor… straight ahead!” He waved her through and Eve drove past the checkpoint to the bustling convention center.
Security was always tight at Moscone Center whenever Apple was preparing for a Keynote. But this time the precautions where on a scale beyond anything Eve had witnessed, circle after circle of security zones guarded by armored vehicles and machine gun placements. Helicopter gunships patrolled the lower skies and jet fighters scrambled through the clouds.
But precautions went far beyond Moscone Center, though it was the fortified epicenter. Eve had returned to her beloved San Francisco to find the entire city a militarized zone, with soldiers, police or private security on every street corner. California, like the rest of North America, like the world itself, was collapsing into an anarchy except for those patches of civilization where disciplined troops could be depended on to enforce martial law or where out and out war was being fought by opposing armies. Even the most tranquil rural community could be shattered by a moody teenager who decided to go on a G-Blade rampage. Mid-sized town’s police departments could be overrun by a gang of children testing the power of their laser weapons. In cities, bands of G-Blade worshiping anarchists, young and old, secretly organized by Google undercover agents, formed small armies to pillage and destroy.
What was Apple’s response to all this? As best Eve could tell, it was more of the same. Even at Moscone Center, security was still being enforced by overwhelmed local law enforcement augmented by private security firms and private military contractors. Likewise, the larger war against Google was being fought by other tech firms like Amazon and Yahoo and various Apple proxies, regional rebels, small tech associations and Mac user groups. Military operations directly controlled by Apple were either covert, like Eve’s Special Sales Division, or under the umbrella of the Apple Stores small Apple Special Forces, whose only mission was to maintain security of the chain of stores. Apple had no standing armies, no air force, no navy of its own. It manufactured no weapons, unlike Google and Amazon and even the Huffington Post. In many ways, it pretended that there was no real war taking place. It continued to open stores, even in dangerous war zones, as if beating Google simply required servicing customers tech needs, rather than preventing them from being slaughtered in the streets the minute they walked out. At this point, Eve was certain the only hope for the world was for Apple to fully militarize and totally defeat Google in direct combat and then completely destroy their manufacturing base. Even with the popularity of the G-Blade, the good will toward Apple was still strong enough that millions would rush to join an Apple army. With Apple’s unparalleled research and manufacturing infrastructure, it could rapidly switch to the production of world class weapons systems that Google could never match. But it would take some time. More time than world events were likely to allow. And there was only one way to buy more time.

“I’m thinking about inviting Leo Laporte to the Keynote.” Those were the first words out of Steve Jobs’ mouth as Eve approached. His beard was shaved and he was wearing his public uniform of 501 jeans and a black Issey Miyake turtleneck. He was standing on the event stage taking a brief pause from his meticulous rehearsals.
Eve was a little disappointed he hadn’t bothered to say “Hello” or “Welcome back, Eve.” Or “good work smashing the enemy fleet at Mers-El-Kébir.” Or even better: “Amazing job freeing the entire continent of Africa from Google’s evil grip. No one but you could have possibly done it.” She would even have liked a “nice shoes,” since her new Jimmy Choo’s finally arrived from Zappos, though she knew that was highly unlikely. The last thing she expected, or wanted to hear, was anything about Leo Laporte.
“No.” Eve said simply.
“I banned him years ago, but I’m starting to feel bad about it. I’m thinking of inviting him to this one.”
“No.” Eve said again.
“Yeah. I’m going to invite him.” Steve said, closing the subject. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yes.” Eve said, glancing around, not comfortable speaking her mind as workers and technicians hustled nearby making preparations. “I was hoping we could talk alone somewhere.”
“I’m too busy. You have two minutes. What is it?”
Eve anxiously tried to summarize all that she had learned about Google’s plans, particularly Marissa Mayer’s inside information about Larry Page’s ultimate goal.
“I know all this, Eve.” Jobs said briskly.
“It’s just that… we’ve suspected it for sometime, but there’s no question now. Page is planning to launch the nukes right after the Keynote.”
“So? What’s your point?”
“Not only will hundreds of millions die instantly, but the radiation will sweep the Earth for hundreds of years. Wiping out almost everything left.”
“I know.” He said with a shrug. “What do you expect me to do about it?”
“Stop them!”
“I thought Branson and Bezos were doing something to stop it. Isn’t that what you told me?” A presentation technician approached and showed Jobs an iPad with a slide of iCom sales figures. “I said silver gray. That’s pearl gray.” Jobs pointed out, annoyed.
“Bezo’s space fleet hasn’t been able to get past Google’s new Deathdealer Dreadnoughts. Google has also new base on the dark side of the moon that allows them to refuel their short range fighters. I don’t think Bezo’s can pull it off alone and Branson’s Pogo Rockets aren’t armed.”
“So? What do you expect us to do about it?” Steve said with growing impatience.
“You have to cancel the Keynote.”
Steve Jobs rolled his eyes. “That’s stupid.” It was his ultimate insult, and it sung Eve. She had heard him use the word “stupid” many times before, often bruising employees feelings, but this was the first time he directed it at her. She pressed on anyway.
“It would buy us some time. Page wouldn’t know how to react and then…”
“How do you know he won’t just fire off the nukes anyway? How do you know he won’t do it in thirty seconds?”
“Because Marissa said…”
“Oh, so Yahoo knows everything.”
“No, it’s just…”
“Don’t be stupid, Eve.” Jobs cut her off. Using that horrible word again. “Apple can’t solve every problem on Earth.”
“But there won’t be any Earth!”
Jobs shrugged.
Eve talked faster, hoping somehow she could get through to him. “The only way to stop Google now is for Apple to completely destroy their industrial base. Millions would enlist in an Apple Army if you personally put out the call. We could build the best weapons and…”
“I thought this was about stopping the nukes? Now you want us to build armies and weapons?”
“It’s about both. If you personally lead the attack on the nuclear platform, with your powers…”
“Eve, you’re thinking in liner terms. Google is doing this, so we have to do that. I’m not going to let Google, or any other company, dictate our strategy. If Google wants to destroy the world, I’m not going to waste all my time trying to stop them. If Amazon or Yahoo wants to stop them, fine, we’ll help where we can. But Apple has never been about reacting to the marketplace. What one decides not to do can be as important as what you do do. I have no interest in building armies to wage war. Apple needs to focus on what we do best. Which is to make great products that people love.”
“Google’s latest product is killing us in the marketplace. Literally.”
“The G-Blade? It’s a piece of junk.”
“A piece of junk that people love.”
“People love porn. People love drugs. People love beer. What does it have to do with Apple? You want us to start making beer?”
Jobs was increasingly annoyed, but at least he was engaged. Eve decided her only chance might be to challenge his ego. “Beer is not a tech product. The G-Blade announces that Google has won the tech wars. They’ve beat Apple. It’s the most successful electronic product in the history. Three hundred million have been sold already…”
“So what? We’ve sold over five hundred million iPod shuffles.”
“After many, many years. Google’s sales were all in the first week.”
“We had four hundred million downloads of Panther’s last single on iTunes in less than 24 hours.”
“But that was a giveaway, and a download. Not a manufactured product…”
“So what is the criteria for Google winning? The amount of trash they can dump on the street? The G-Blade is a piece a shit. The fit and finish is a joke. It’s full of bugs, the colors of the lasers aren’t consistent, the handles scratch easy, and the battery life is horrible. They’ll start falling apart in six months and Google takes a loss on every one sold. They’ll never be profitable. Is that what you want Apple to emulate? Start building expensive shit and giving it away? Don’t be so stupid, Eve.”
Jobs was angry now. He hit the “s” in stupid very hard. Eve knew she was risking his rage, but she had to break through. “G-Blades are cool. People want them. I held one and I wanted it. Kids are throwing away their iComs and iPads in favor of Android. G-Blades are cooler than anything Apple has ever made.”
Eve suddenly felt an invisible force emanate from Jobs and hit her from head to toe. It threw her back several feet. The rafters of the stage shook. The workers all stopped and stared at them. Jobs raised a hand, as if considering to strike at her again. Eve didn’t know the limits of his powers, if he had any, but she feared that with a wave of his hand he could make her body explode. Instead he lowered his arm and his voice became calm.
“If you really think the G-Blade is cool, you need to look into your own heart. I can’t help you.”
Eve swallowed, humbled. “I know it’s a gimmick. I know it’s a fad. But it’s working for Google. At least the perception is that they have beaten us…”
“Eve, you’ve got to open your mind. Get past this idea that for Apple to win, Google has to lose.”
“But they do have to lose! It’s the only way to save the planet!”
Jobs sighed, his anger had faded into bemused disappointment, which actually pained Eve even more.
“You know I’m not going to cancel the Keynote, so why are you still talking? Don’t you have anything to do?”
“What does any of it matter if…”
“I didn’t say that nothing mattered. Get back to Central Asia and do your job. Larry Page might never launch the nukes. They might not even work if he does. Focus on what you do well. And let me focus on what I do well.”
Jobs turned his back on her and spoke to the Keynote technicians. “Let’s run another lighting check. From the top.” Eve felt drained and depressed. She slowly started to walk off.
“Eve!” Jobs shouted. She stopped and turned. Jobs quickly crossed over, stepped in close and talked in a low voice.
“You need to take Alice and Pascal to New Cupertino. It’s the only safe place for them.”
Eve choked up and fought off tears. Growing concern about danger to her cats had been wearing on her from the moment she arrived in San Francisco and realized how quickly the city was disintegrating. She couldn’t remember telling Jobs that she had cats, or their names. That he would know and be concerned for their welfare, particularly at this moment, deeply touched her. She softly said, “They have a kitty sitter who…”
“I already talked to Lorena. She and Marcie are going to move to New Cupertino too so they can escape the city. It’s all arranged.” Eve struggled to absorb how Jobs could go from being so condescending in one moment, totally focused on his own grand projects, and then instantly shift to being compassionately concerned for her personal life. Eve wiped her eyes and nodded. “Thank you.”

Eve started away, afraid she might reveal more emotions if she stayed any longer. Jobs pointed at her feet and called out. “By the way, nice shoes.”

To be continued…
Next episode: The Great Game

Episode Thirteen: The Spoils of War

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.”

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…

Episode Twelve: Revolt in the Desert

“Let go! Let go!” Eve shouted, desperate to be heard over the roar of the raging sandstorm.
The last traces of their Jeep disappeared in the quicksand and Bullinda released the tow rope just before she was dragged down with it. Eve grabbed the back of Bullinda’s shirt and pulled her up the sand dune, even as Yuliya, slightly higher, tugged on Eve’s shirt to prevent her from sliding down too.
Together, they inched up the shifting dune as the tow rope slithered down into the quicksand like an escaping worm. Their Jeep and what was left of their supplies had been swallowed in the desert. Losing her bearings in the sandstorm, Eve had lead them into sand trap and foolishly agreed to Bullinda’s suggestion to try to haul the Jeep out by the tow rope as it was sinking. That decision almost killed Bullinda.
Eve had made a lot of foolish decisions in the last 24 hours since Yahoo captured Cairo and the Suez Canal. Rather than waiting to get airlifted out, Eve decided to continue the Force H deception and travel quickly by land planting more ground deceptions to make it look like the imaginary army was moving North East to join up with Mayer’s armored divisions. Along the way, her small team blew up a large Google ammunitions and fuel depot in Faya-Largeau. Her theory was to panic the Google forces fleeing Egypt so they wouldn’t try to fall back and reinforce Dakar. Instead, they might head to Algeria where they would be trapped between Yahoo armor and Amazon’s Tangier based Naval forces and Marines. It was a deception of questionable real military value; Mayer had informed her that what was left of Google’s Egyptian forces were in disarray and not likely to be much threat whichever direction they headed. Assuming they had lost command and control, it was unlikely they would know of, or be swayed, by the fictitious Force H. That is, if Google even believed there was a Force H anymore. The Faya-Largeau depot was an attractive target, and blew up real good, but again, it’s unlikely the supplies there would have altered the war effort, even if the retreating Google forces got to them first. There had been a larger detachment on guard than Eve had anticipated. Her team had made mincemeat of them, but a stray bullet could have switched the results. In retrospect, it was a foolish risk.
The storm was fierce and pebbles in the swirling sand stung through the cloth of the keffiyeh’s covering their faces and pinged off their goggles. Eve could see nothing around her but dusty clouds. Yuliya tapped on Eve’s shoulder and revealed a sand trap app on her iCom that mapped the area. It hadn’t even occurred to Eve to check the App Store for quickstand maps. “Best Quicksand App Ever” had the best reviews. Presuming the iComs sapphire screen held up in the sandstorm, it looked like they might find a safe path onward.
Eve allowed Yuliya to lead. She strode easily through the sand with the confidence of someone who was born and bred in a desert. Bullinda and Eve had trouble keeping up with her.
“There is simply no way Steve Jobs is going to top this at the Apple Keynote.” Leo Laporte’s MacBreak Weekly podcast echoed in Eve’s head. “And I’ve never thought that before. This will be the first Keynote I can think of where Apple is beat before they even announce their products.”
Eve tried to put the podcast discussion of the Keynote out of her mind. Her focus needed to be on getting to Cairo and the tough battles beyond. Mayer and YAC would have no trouble finishing the job in Africa so Eve planned to shift her efforts to driving what was left of Google out of Central Asia, reach Istambul and then join Facebook, Zuckerman and the Huffington Post in recapturing Europe. Word was it that the space war was not going well, Amazon was battling Google for control of the moon. Why hadn’t Bezos started with taking out Google’s orbital complexes? What good would control of the moon be if Earth itself was lost?
Yet as hard as Eve tried to keep her focus on the war, thoughts of the Keynote kept coming back. Growing up in Northern California, a classic geek girl, Eve used to be obsessed with the Apple Keynotes. She read up on the rumors, pondered the technical possibilities, and argued in the blog comments. Keynotes were better than Christmas. Steve Jobs was her high tech Santa Claus and each year he brought toys to dramatically change her life. A great new Apple device was like being granted magical wishes. Eve was ten years old when the first iPad came out, and it was like opening a door and stepping into a fantasy world. Within two months she was programming her own apps. She made a simple game where you harvested cartoon turnips (FarmVille was big at the time) and sold enough of them to pay for a new bike. She became an avid reader of ebooks on everything from technology and science, to Camille Paglia and self-published fan fiction.
But in the years since she began to work for Apple, her passion and even interest in the Keynotes had faded. In fact, as her dry throat begged for water in the harsh hot air and her weary feet fought on through the sand, she realized she had come to hate them. Her insider status granted her just enough privileged information that reading about the rumors became a boring exercise. Half of them were annoyingly wrong, but even worse, half were completely correct. The mystery of the Keynote had disappeared, not just for Eve as an employee, but she also suspected for every Apple fan. These days, everything was leaked or guessed in advance, rarely was Apple able to pull off even a small surprise. Certainly nothing on the level of the iPad, iCom or iLab. How many years had it since Apple introduced a truly new product category? Something really amazing like the…
She stopped herself. She was going to say it, if only in her own thoughts. She was going to agree with the traitorous Leo Laporte. And now she was going through mental contortions trying not to think of it. To hopelessly not think about a pink elephant. What was the point? She had to admit the G-Blade was the most significant new product in years. Google finally had created a consumer item that people actually wanted. Not one that was simply cheaper, or good enough for Apple haters, or with some useless geek appeal, or forced on customers by the tip of a bayonet. Yes, it was ripped off from the George Lucas’ Star Wars universe. But still, it was a real working light saber, well crafted and at a price low enough to be an impulse purchase. That was a real breakthrough in consumer electronics. Larry and Serge had done it. They had beaten Apple.

The sun thankfully begin to set and the worst of the sand storm seemed to be fading. The dusty horizon turned from hot gray to warm orange. Three silhouetted figures appeared at the top of a large ridge ahead of them. They looked like Bedouins and were mounted on camels. Bedouins come from a tradition of helping those in need, Eve thought. But she barely had time to wonder if they had water or food to share before they shouted at their camels and charged down to attack.
Three bright beams of light extended from their raised hands, one red, one green and one blue. G-Blades.
Bullinda swung her Enfield Mk5 rifle from around her back and Yuliya raised up her De Lisle carbine. They both took aim at their attacker’s chests, the surest hit for a moving target in flowing robes. They fired, but the beams of the G-Blades swung over to vaporize the bullets. Eve noted it was a nice refinement on the Star Wars universe. Regular humans, presumably without the magical help of The Force, can’t swing the handles fast enough to intercept bullets. But sensors in the G-Blade handles tracked fast projectiles and the lasers automatically arc to catch them mid-fight.
Yet it only took Eve a fraction of a second to sense the G-Blades Achilles’ heel as a laser shield: the beam protection only worked in less than an 180° arc above the handle. Eve fast drew her Webley .38 super revolver and fired three shots, nailing the right hip of each of the riders, below the handle of the G-Blades.
A bullet wound to the hip makes it almost impossible to ride, particularly a camel. Two of the attackers fell off their mounts instantly, losing their G-Blades as they went. The third flailed in the saddle while trying to keep hold of his G-Blade. Accidentally, he sliced his own head in half, the laser cutting clean through a third of his skull. What was left of him tumbled off the back of the camel, only to have a leg sliced apart by the spinning G-Blade as it fell. Once they hit the ground, the three lasers continued to burn from their handles, melting the sand into crude glass front of them. Another design flaw, Eve considered, the beams should safety shut off the moment they are let go. But of course, the true intent of all Android products is to create chaos and mayhem, rather than serve their customers. So Google probably considered the lack of a safe shut down as a feature, not a flaw.
As the riderless camels dashed off on their own, Yuliya and Bullinda rushed after the two survivors, guns raised. Eve shouted. “I want them alive! Alive!”
One of them was already crawling through the sand, desperate to retrieve his G-Blade. His hand reached out and almost touched it, but instead his fingers hit the burning sand. The red hot glass stuck to the tips of his skin and he screamed. By then Yuliya had reached him; she grabbed the G-Blade up and turned it off.
Eve reached the other rider who simply moaned in pain and begged for mercy. She picked up his G-Blade, studying the laser for a brief moment before shutting it off too. Bullinda retrieved the last G-Blade from the mangled remains of the third rider.
A quick search revealed they had no other weapons, but a couple iComs. “See if you can get the camels.” Eve ordered Yuliya, who dashed off in the direction they had gone. Eve looked over to Bullinda, who was staring at her G-Blade’s laser beam, entranced. She waved it through the air and the handle’s hidden speaker made appropriate Star Wars “zoom” sound effects.
“Pretty damn cool.” Bullinda said.
“Shut it off.” Eve gruffly ordered. Bullinda’s eyes locked on Eve, and a tiny glint of the reflected laser indicated she was considering refusing. In fact, for a moment it seemed she was toying with the idea of slicing Eve in two. But she pulled her mind out of the dark pit and clicked the button off. As the laser vanished so did the sinister intentions. Bullinda was left drained, as if coming out of a evil spell. “Yes. You’re right.” She said softly.
Bullinda stood guard on the two prisoners with her Enfield as Eve performed field triage on their wounds, which were painful, but not serious. Eve quickly learned they were not Bedouins, but teenage wanna be hoodlums from the town of Bawiti. The younger of the two, Jarah, grateful for the medical attention, quickly confessed to all their crimes. Armon, his mangled fingertips still fused with pieces glass and sand, was silently defiant. The dead third, Mikal, had been Jarah’s older brother.
They had bought the G-Blades at a local Microsoft Store with money Armon had stolen from his uncle. They then headed into the desert on a crime spree, menacing a passing caravan and stealing their camels and clothes.
When Eve had finished bandaging the two, Yuliya apologetically returned without the camels. They were long gone, probably heading back to their true owners. Eve examined the teenagers’ iComs. Naturally, they had been jailbroken to be used with the G-Blades. The G-Blade App allowed them to customize the laser beams colors, while also infecting the iCom will all forms of spyware. Even turned off they were dangerous for Eve to carry. She gave one back to Jarah.
“I’m sorry about your, brother. Do you have someone you can call to come help you?”
Jarah nodded, ashamed and grateful.
“Wait an hour. Deal?”
Jarah nodded again. Then Eve handed Armon his own iCom.
“Give me my G-Blade!” he demanded angrily.
“You’re lucky you aren’t dead. And twice lucky I didn’t leave you to die. You need that iCom more than you need the G-Blade.”
“I don’t want a stupid iCom! I’m going to get a Nexus 20!” he said, throwing the iCom at Eve. Eve ducked and it sailed past her head, disappearing into the sand. “I hate Apple! I hate it!”
“No, Armon!” Jarah shouted on the verge of tears. “You love Apple! You always loved Apple! You loved your iCom!”
“Not anymore! I love Android! I love Google! I embrace everlasting darkness and evil! Give me my G-Blade! Give it!”
His eyes burned with such madness and fury that Eve, who feared little, was momentarily shaken to her core. This was the future of Earth, she thought. Technology used not to raise man up, but to twist his mind toward self-destruction. She quickly ripped apart the G-Blade she was carrying, tossing its battery in one direction, tearing out wires and then tossing the remains far out in the other.
Armon screamed as she did it and then desperately crawled through the sand after the pieces.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.” Eve said to her commandos. They headed away as quickly as they could while Armon continued to search for his ruined weapon, whimpering in agony.
“Give me the others.” Eve said to Yuliya and Bullinda. Yuliya quickly handed over hers and Eve instantly destroyed and discarded it.
But Bullinda hesitated. “Maybe we should keep one? It’s a pretty powerful weapon. We might need it…”
“Are you crazy?!” Eve asked. “That electric creature belongs to Google. It serves its master by enslaving its owner. Destroy it, now!”
Bullinda raised up the G-Blade and for a moment Eve feared she might turn it on and attack. Bullinda’s hands trembled as she fumbled to open up the battery case. But her weak fingers couldn’t do it. Instead she thrust it into Eve’s hands.
And then, in an angry flash, Eve herself thought about turning it on and slicing Bullinda to pieces for even considering to defy her. After their brutal fight in the jungle, after Eve had pounded Bullinda into submission, what right did Bullinda have to question her authority? What an irony it would be if Eve used the G-Blade to behead her right now? Why shouldn’t Eve embrace evil? Why should she cowtow to Steve Jobs when she could have Larry and Sergey crawling to kiss her feet! How long, really, would it take for her to move up the executive ladder at Google? She could be president, she could be CEO, she could lead Google into a vicious darkness greater than those two pathetic geeks could ever dream of…
The G-Blade was ripped from her hands by Yuliya who quickly trotted off with it. Eve drew her Webley and raised it up to fire at her. Yuliya wanted the G-Blade for herself! Then she saw Yuliya’s large sad beautiful dark eyes, so pure of thought. Eve lowered the pistol. Yuliya tore open the G-Blade and ripped out the wires, battery and semiconductors, scattering each piece in every direction to be lost in the sand.
Eve found herself overwhelmed with sadness, ashamed at her weakness and a lingering sensation of loss. She could almost feel the tingle of the missing G-Blade in her fingers. She looked over at Bullinda, herself overcome with confused angst. Bullinda will never look at me the same, Eve thought. As the perfect leader. Someone to trust with her life. She will always know I am as susceptible to evil as those wayward boys.
Bullinda turned away from Eve and shuffled off in the sand. Yuliya went to Eve’s side and put an arm around her for comfort. She lead her after Bullinda, and all three joined arms to walk shoulder to shoulder.

To be continued…

Episode Eleven: Africa on Fire

A hot shockwave from the napalm blast swept over Eve and for a moment she assumed she was toast. The heat stung her face, the light blinded her eyes and the expanding air almost knocked her over. But the fury didn't last and Eve knew that the simple question of death in her mind proved she was alive. She pulled her keffiyeh over her nose to keep out the smoke and raised her rocket launcher.
She was standing on a small hill overlooking a vast jungle valley south of the Sangha River. Three Google backfire jet bombers had just scattered their deadly payloads for as far as the eyes could see. The jungle burned with the sick chemical stench of napalm for miles in front of them. Google was desperate to stop the rapid northeastern advance of Yahoo's Force H before it reached Nigeria. The napalm would burn for at least 12 hours halting any army in its tracks. This valley had the only roads armored units could navigate for a hundred miles, so it was an excellent target. And in the process Google had come damn close to frying Eve and her tiny expedition team. Now it was her chance for paypack.
She fired her air to air missile at the lead bomber. Next to her, Yuliya and Bullinda fired their missiles at the two bombers trailing it. They were all dressed in military camouflage fatigues with Yahoo African Corps insignia. Eve's missile struck dead on and blew the lead bomber's right wing clear off. Bullinda's missile also connected, ripping into the tail section of her bomber. Both began to fall like wounded birds. Yuliya's missile sailed past, either from an aiming misfire or some technical glitch. Yuliya's eyes fell in shame. Eve reassured her with a pat on the shoulder. "It's alright. Fetch another. There's still time."
Yuliya dashed to the back of their Jeep Hunter and grabbed another rocket launcher. She brought it to Eve. Eve shook her head, "No. You do it."
Yuliya swallowed but didn't hesitate. She raised the launcher and flicked off the trigger safety. The tracking system quickly picked up the last fleeing bomber. This was going to be an even harder shot to make, Eve knew. But Yuliya had been learning quickly and had proven herself to be natural born guerrilla fighter. Yuliya pulled the trigger and the missile shot out in pursuit. All three watched tensely as the fiery plume rushed away leaving a shrinking trail of smoke. For a moment it looked like the bomber might outrun it as they both disappeared from sight. But a faint white flash and then the distant crack of an explosion proved it was a hit. Eve raised her electronic binoculars in time to see the bomber spiral downward to its doom. She turned to Yuliya and smiled under her keffiyeh. "Good job."
Yuliya nodded, curtly accepting the praise and then turning her eyes to the distant jungle fires. Their personal relationship had abruptly changed after Eve's fight with Bullinda. Clearly, Yuliya had been hurt that Eve had agreed to make her a prize, even as a ploy to get Yahoo to fight and even though Eve had won. While Yuliya had insisted on joining the war against Google and fighting under Eve's command, any flirtation of romance between them was gone. Yuliya was obedient and professional but had lost her playful enthusiasm. Eve could have blamed it on the grueling pace of their military campaign, but it was more than that and she knew it. Frankly, Eve was relieved any issue of "love" was over and there was no spare time or energy for sex anyway. When the three of them had time to sleep, they did it in shifts, snuggled platonically against the night cold with whoever was not on watch. 
"We'd better keep moving. If they were guessing we were headed here, they'll know now with the bombers missing.” Eve said as they loaded the spent launchers into the back of the Jeep. Bullinda jumped into the driver’s seat and Eve took the shotgun. Yuliya leaped into the back and they drove off.
So far, Yahoo's African campaign had been even more successful than Eve could have hoped. Google's forces in the south had been spread out and ill-equipped for years. Meanwhile, life in the jungle had apparently revitalized Yahoo's fighting spirit. They met little resistance when they attacked Capetown and then took Port Elizabeth. When what was left of Google's southern armies attempted to regroup in Mozambique they were cut off and slaughtered. Google's northern forces made no attempt to save them. In just days, Yahoo took effective control of everything on the continent below the equator. Then YAC infantry and armored units, under CEO Marissa Mayer's direct command, drove up through Kenya into Ethiopia to capture Djibouti. With it as a staging base, they could control the Gulf of Aden and the entrance to the Red Sea.
That was when Eve's three woman commando team had split off from the main forces and dashed west through Central Africa, wreaking havoc. They destroyed rail lines and fuel depots, ammo supply yards and communications stations. Along the way, they set fake broadcasting pods, sound systems and holographic projectors. From satellite pictures and communication intercepts it would appear to Google that several armored divisions were moving northeast. And after the slaughter in Mozambique, Google's remaining forces in Central Africa were quick to flee in fear of the approaching "Force H."
On some level, Google had to suspect the mythical Force H was a diversion. Even real armies use holographic projections and other tricks to confuse the enemy, often to make their forces seem smaller. But whatever it was moved too fast and left too little trace to have been a full force of tens of thousands with heavy armor and artillery that the holographs portrayed. Yet Google still had substantial military assets in Algeria, Libya and Egypt they needed to protect. So they had to be sweating as some sort of military force thrust through the Congo toward Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. Their defenses in Dakar were so weak that it might fall to a determined light infantry unit. If captured by land it would allow Yahoo's naval assets to resupply from Capetown in the South. With Amazon already in control of Tangier and Gibraltar, the lost of Dakar would mean Google Africa was completely cut off from the Atlantic. They couldn't take the chance and had to split their remaining North African forces while bombing anything that appeared to move. Eve couldn't help but be amused at the thought. While Google might have believed that Force H was merely a thousand or even a hundred mechanized soldiers, they would never dream it was simply three women in a Jeep with some small arms and explosives. Meanwhile, Marissa and YAC’s main armored divisions were preparing to make a desert run toward Cairo and seize the Suez. That would be the end of Google in Africa. Everything else would be cleanup.

Darkness fell and it became difficult to navigate through the overgrown jungle trails. Eve ordered Bullinda to pull over so they could camp until morning light. They had traversed another three hundred miles since they had shot down the bombers.
"You want us to set up the tent?" Bullinda asked.
Eve shrugged. "I don't need it." That, of course, meant no tent as the others wouldn't dare ask for the luxury of stretching out their legs to sleep if Eve didn't request it. Bullinda spread a camouflage net over the top of the Jeep. With her machete, she cut tree branches and arranged them in the netting to add to the concealment. Yuliya unfolded an army entrenching shovel and began to dig a water hole in the moist jungle dirt. As she dug, she listened to some tech podcasts on her iCom. Eve had encouraged her to keep up to date on the latest industry developments. Eve pulled out her iPad and checked over the programing of the electronics they had planted for their fictional "Force H." She adjusted them to make it appear the units had been slowed and forced to go around the napalm carpet. She checked her email. There was a note from Lorena saying that Pascal and Alice were fine. Another note from her mother who was having trouble with her laptop. And a short message from Oliver saying he was doing well and had officially become Virgin's military attaché to Yahoo.
From the shallow water hole Yuliya used a tin cup to scoop up smelly brown water and pour it into a portable water purifier. She had already refilled their canteens and was distilling more water to fill a bucket. Bullinda had finished checking over the Jeep and when the bucket was filled she and Yuliya stripped off their clothes and used sponges and a little soap to wash dirt and sweat from their bodies. Eve noticed that they didn't ask her for permission, probably fearing she might have nixed even this simple comfort. But Eve knew at least a quick wipe down at this point was almost a necessity. Even in the open Jeep, they were all beginning to smell from the relentless journey. Keeping reasonably clean was critical to maintaining health and fitness in the wild.
Bullinda's naked skin was covered with darkening bruises and as Eve took off her clothes she revealed a matching set. Bullinda eyed Eve's bruises up and down, more bemused than lecherous. Their fight had taken quite a toll on both their bodies. It was amazing neither had been killed or permanently damaged, let alone that they had recovered quickly enough to jump into the war. Eve did have a couple loose teeth and feared they would eventually have to be pulled. Bullinda's left eye was still bloodshot from a concussion and her collar bone had been broken, not that it seemed to bother her much. As Bullinda stepped over and gently washed Eve's back, Eve couldn't help but remember the brutality of their hand to hand duel.

When Bullinda had stepped into the fighting ring, Eve spotted a heavy baseball sized rock nearby. She figured she could snatch it up and hurl it between Bullinda's eyes before the match began and incapacitate if not out and out kill her. "So we're talking standard NCWWA rules? With a two second shoulder pin?" Eve said casually, trying to stall for a second as she neared the rock. But Bullinda had caught Eve's glance and before she could reach down and nab the rock, Bullinda charged out of the ring at Eve like a rhino. "No rules, you dirty Apple cheat!" She smashed into Eve like a linebacker and threw her to the ground hard, knocking the breath out of her. 
Before Eve could recover, Bullinda grabbed her up and hurled her into the ring. Eve hit the dirt and managed to roll up to her feet, only to have Bullinda leap in and clobber her in the face with a hambone sized fist. Eve staggered back, her brain almost completely fried with pain. On instinct alone, as Bullinda tried to punch her again she managed to duck and leap inside Bullinda's swing. She fired back with her own punch to Bullinda's guts. She punched again and again, but with negligible effect on the giantess. Bullinda's tree trunk arms encircled Eve and pulled her into a crushing embrace. All of the air in Eve's lungs was instantly squeezed out as their breasts smashed together. There was little doubt Bullinda could have broken Eve's spine and all of her ribs, but mercifully held back, content to suffocate her into unconsciousness. Eve's feet dangled helplessly over the ground as Bullinda raised her up in the vice like hug.
The crowd of fellow Yahoo employees circled the ring and cheered Bullinda on. They had seen this wrestling lock before and knew how it always ended. "Bullinda! Bullinda! Bullinda!"
On the verge of losing consciousness, Eve attacked the only way she could, biting Bullinda in the neck.
Bullinda howled in pain like an angry bear. She loosened her grip just enough for Eve to knee her in the crotch and break free. Eve landed on her feet, sucked in some lovely oxygen, and threw a fierce kick into Bullinda's ribs and then a spinning kick to her chin.
Eve realized she would have to change tactics; there was no hope of a quick victory from a single decisive blow. If she had any chance to win, and she assumed she didn't, she would have try to wear the monster down. While Bullinda was almost a foot taller, her legs and arms were relatively short, her size coming from a long stocky midsection. Eve's legs were long for her height. She discovered that she could spinout kicks to Bullinda's face and ribs, just out of reach of Bullinda's own arms and legs.
Eve pounded on Bullinda again and again with long kicks as if hammering at a reluctant nail into hard wood. At first it seemed to have no effect. Eve knew if she had been wearing boots or sturdy shoes she would have had a better chance. But barefoot it was likely her hits weren't powerful enough to register against the seven foot pile of muscle. Bullinda's strong hands shot out each time hoping to catch one of Eve's feet and put an end to the annoying abuse.
But when that didn't work, Bullinda tried rushing at Eve, hoping to tackle her. As gracefully as a dancer, Eve dodged out of Bullinda's path, but not before sending a powerful side thrust kick into Bullinda's right ear. That kick had to have hurt, and Eve thought, because more than half its force came from Bullinda's own charge.
Bullinda staggered for a second, blood was running down from the flesh wound Eve had bit into her neck. Eve desperately needed a moment to rest herself, but she couldn't take it. She continued to kick at Bullinda's head. Now rather than trying to grab at Eve, Bullinda was trying to block the kicks away from her face. Clearly Eve's blows were having an effect. Eve alternated between kicking at Bullinda's face and kicking down at her kneecaps, hoping to break one. Bullinda, sensing she was starting to lose, howled and charged again at Eve.
Eve repeated her dodge and sidekick, using the force of Bullinda's own charge to strike her head on the right ear again. The ball of Eve's foot felt something crack underneath. Ear bone, skull bone, jaw bone? Bullinda swayed, punch drunk. Eve now saw a clear path to victory. One that had always been there. In her desperation to win quickly, she had forgotten the Aikido teachings of Steve Jobs. When confronting a stronger opponent, use their own power against them. It was how Jobs had defeated Microsoft back in the days when their PC Windows operating system had seemed invincible. Rather than attack their OS head on, he stepped aside with the iPad, creating a new market that doomed the old one. All of Microsoft’s power could not be turned in time to react and ended up propelling their fall. Likewise, any blow Bullinda was capable of delivering could be dodged and used against her.
The Yahoo crowd fell silent as their hero showed signs of being defeated. Yuliya and Oliver were able to push through to get a better view.
Eve stepped in firmly and switched to her fists, with a left swinging punch to Bullinda's stomach and then a right jab to her chin. As Eve anticipated, Bullinda tried to punch back, but in her dazed state, Eve easily caught her arm and used her own weight against her. She flipped her over her back in a classic judo throw and Bullinda hit the dust hard.
Eve's own body was now numb. She felt no pain and her mind seemed pleasantly clear, almost euphoric. Which was a good and bad thing. She was probably in hypoxia shock, her body tissue so deprived of oxygen from the relentless fight it failed to send pain signals anymore. If she didn't rest soon she might have a heart attack. But the minute she did rest, pain could rush on so quickly she might instantly pass out.
Bullinda slowly rose to her feet, blood was now leaking from her right ear and eye, in addition to the neck wound. Eve's legs didn't seem willing to rise up into kicks, so she stepped right in and punched Bullinda in the face. Bullinda tried to punch back but Eve ducked it and struck her again and again.
The bloodthirsty crowd's mood had shifted. They began to chant, "Apple! Apple! Apple!"
Bullinda's guard dropped and her arms dangled to her side. Eve hit her in the face again, and this time blood shot from her nose. Eve paused, but Bullinda refused to fall. Her eyes were still defiant. "Come on." Bullinda said in a slurred voice. "Is that all you've got?" Eve knew she was about to keel over herself. She was terrified Bullinda might get a second win and attack. She raised her fist to punch Bullinda.
"No! Enough! Enough!" Yuliya rushed in and leapt between them, grabbing Eve's arm. She pushed Eve away and then realized Eve was so weak she was barely able to stand herself. Eve whispered in her ear, "Don't let me fall." Yuliya grabbed Eve into a tight hug, pretending to hold her off, but actually holding her up.
Marissa Mayer rose from her throne and walked to the ring. The crowd parted in her path. Yuliya shouted to her. "You are the leader! Call the fight off! What point is there in them killing each other!? Google is the real enemy! Can't you see that! Call it a draw!”
"NO!" Bullinda shouted out as she took a step forward and addressed Marissa. Her voice shook the jungle. Her eyes blazed and she spoke firmly. "I have lost the fight. Bullinda has been defeated…” The last ounce of her energy spent, Bullinda’s eyes rolled back and she collapsed like a falling redwood.
Eve managed to stand long enough for Marissa to confirm the win with a nod. Marissa turned to the crowd and shouted. "The decision has been made! Fairly fought and won for! Yahoo will join all in with Apple to destroy Google or perish in the attempt!"
The crowd chanted, "Yahoo! Apple! Yahoo! Apple!"
Eve allowed Yuliya and Oliver to help her limp back to the mats where she laid down. The minute she closed her eyes she fell asleep for ten hours. When she woke up, the Google/Yahoo Africa war was beginning. True to her word, Mayer rapidly mobilized her forces. Hidden across the jungles and savannas were all the necessities of a modern army: armor, weapons, supplies, transportation. Yahoo's naval forces, older ships of the line but still to be feared, were pulled out of mothballs. Meyer's plan had been to bring these assets into play decades after the world’s civilization had been destroyed by Google. Now they would gear up to stop it first.
When Eve awoke, she found a recovering Bullinda offering her coffee with a smile. The white of her left eye was bloody red, the unbandaged bite wound on her neck was swollen, but she was oddly upbeat and excited about the coming war. While Eve and her never spoke specifically about it, since that moment Bullinda became Eve's devoted first lieutenant, girl Friday and bodyguard.

Bullinda rinsed the soap from Eve's back and as Eve turned around she gazed at the still healing bite wound on Bullinda's neck. Bullinda chuckled and said, "Love bite." Eve returned a smile then noticed that Yuliya seemed bothered by something. Jealous? Eve wondered. It was the first trace of it since the three had set out together as "Force H." No, there was something else.
"What is it?" Eve asked Yuliya.
"Nothing," Yuliya answered unconvincingly. Bullinda's mouth tightened, as if she knew what Yuliya was holding back.
Eve addressed them both commandingly, annoyed with the whiff of schoolgirl secrets. "What is it?"
Yuliya stuttered. "MacBreak Weekly…"
"What about it?"
"It's nothing… just that…" Yuliya had trouble finishing.
"It's just Leo Laporte. Nothing important." Bullinda offered.
Eve was now angry. "What about him? Tell me now!"
"He… made the G-Blade his pick of the week."
"You mean, on This Week in Google or TWIT?”
"No.” Bullinda’s deep voice softened. “He did it on MacBreak Weekly."
Eve couldn't believe it. More likely, she didn't want to. She downloaded the podcast to her iCom. She had to hear it herself. Not that she had any illusions about Laporte's long history of treachery to Apple. But he had personally promised her on the Aurora that he would be unwavering in his support from then on. Now, with Africa almost won, the last thing Apple needed was to have Laporte stab it in the back on the blogsphere. What a fool she had been to trust him.
She played the podcast and skipped through the typical wild guessing about what Jobs would reveal in the upcoming Keynote. Upgrades to the iCom were an obvious guess, the Apple iCar was, as usual, unlikely. The "Pick of the Week" was always near the end of the broadcast. When she found it, Laporte's chipper radio announcer voice began: "So, my pick of the week might be a little controversial for this show, but I have to give credit where credit is due. It is the biggest commercial product launch in history…"
"Oh, Leo, I don't like the sound of this." Andy Ihnatko, the legendary tech journalist, said concerned. Eve had a soft spot for the dependable Ihnatko.
"I'm sorry, but I have to call them as I seem them.” Laporte continued. “The Google G-Blade is my pick of the week. There's just nothing else close. Even Apple fans should really check it out. It's an incredible product that…"
Andy cut him off, "That is specifically designed by Google to create anarchy and drive the world into darkness."
"I know that. I get that. But it's still pretty cool." Laporte answered. "Look, I've been saying for some time that I take Google seriously when they say that they have turned to evil. The overall cruelty of the Android ecosystem can’t be ignored anymore. Everything, from their products, to their software, to their shock troops and weapons of mass destruction is designed to create suffering and hopelessness in humanity. But, nevertheless, the G-Blade is really fun. Have you played with one, Andy?"
"No, Leo. I don't want to finance Google's stated goal of sending the Earth into a thousand years of darkness."
"You could borrow one. Didn't they send you a review copy?"
"They did, but I did not open it. The other problem Leo is that you have no way of knowing exactly what is programmed to do. In addition to being a powerful laser weapon, the teardown's indicate it is a full fledged Android communications device. They can track your location, listen to your conversations, and for all we know they could remotely turn it into a bomb. Remember the Nexus Q?"
"They have to have the tracking features for some of the game options and communication hardware so it can download updates. I don't know if we have to assume there is some other sinister purpose."
"Leo, what part of Google is evil don't you get?"
"Just because they're evil doesn't mean they can't make a great product once in a while. It's not just for cutting things in half. You can actually adjust the laser to stun and have fights with your friends. Kids love it."
"Kids love chainsaws. But we shouldn't hand them over and say go play with them. There have already been thousands of accidents, kids cutting their parents, teachers and siblings in half…"
"Well, kids need to be supervised. That I agree with. But there are a lot of toys that can be dangerous if used improperly. There are also new apps for the iCom that include parental controls. Of course, you have to jailbreak your iCom to install the virtual Android engine…"
Eve stopped the podcast. She couldn't take it anymore. Regardless of how the war was going, the success of the G-Blade had the potential to make it all for nothing. It was Google's Trojan horse to destroy Apple's markets. Even in those territories where Apple iOS adoption was over 90%, if everyone started buying G-Blades and jailbreaking their iComs to use them, Google’s technological tentacles could worm their way into every household. The message from Google was clear. We're evil, join us, it's fun. Eve began to think Mayer was right. Apple's Keynote would be the final victory for Larry Page. There was no way Jobs could introduce a product to top this. And when he failed, Page would finally have everything he wanted. Why not drop the nukes and seal his win?
A call came in on the iCom. Eve answered it, Marissa's voice came in clear and upbeat. "We did it. We captured Cairo. How soon can you get here?"

To be continued…

Episode Ten: The Horror


Marissa waved her hand regally at the hunting party and they lowered the dangling prisoners to the dirt. She then sliced off their bindings with swift but precise strokes from her sharp dagger. As the three rose to their feet, Marissa clapped and jungle attire was brought to them by a cute looking male Yahoo employee decorated in feathers and feminine warpaint.
Eve examined the skimpy leopard bikini brief and top offered to her. "Marissa, come on. What is this?"
"Relax, it's synthetic fur. No animals were hurt. Environmentally friendly. Why would you want to hide that body? You're in the wild now. Free yourself!"
Eve pulled the brief on. It was better than standing naked. Yuliya helped her tie the back of the bikini top, which barely covered the front curve of her breasts. "I mean this whole thing. You were supposed to lead Yahoo out of the jungle, not deeper into it."
"I had no choice, Eve. You of all people should know.” Marissa paced in front of them, running the point of her dagger over her fingertips. “When I came to Yahoo I assumed Apple would join forces with me to stop Google once and for all. I begged Steve Jobs for a real partnership, but you always turned us away. You didn’t care what happened to Yahoo. We helped create the world wide web, but to Jobs we were just a legacy service. And you know how he loves to abandon old legacies.”
"We've done everything we can to help Yahoo, but we have our own priorities. No one has fought Google harder than us.”
"If we had really teamed up sooner we could have beat them. But now nothing can stop the coming Google apocalypse. The only question is which tech companies will survive it. And I intend to make sure that Yahoo survives."
"By going back to the Stone Age?" Eve asked.
"Hardly. There's more to this jungle paradise than meets the eye." Marissa led Eve over to the vine covered trunk of a large tree. She showed her how hidden in the leaves was a Thunderbolt 5 connection. "We're wiring all of the jungle with optic fiber to build our own network with physical firewalls to stop hacking. There's a connection port in every mature tree and large bush." She lifted up what appeared to be a rock, but turned out to be hollowed out concrete. Under it was a large blinking server bay. She pointed out solar panels cleverly disguised as large ferns.
"I know everyone is saying I'm mad. That I've gone crazy in the jungle. That I'm off my rocker." She laughed delightedly and little too loudly. "Yes, I'm crazy. Crazy like tasmanian devil!"
Excited, she rushed to the top of the temple steps and threw a hand up to the assembled crowd. "Who is with me! Am I crazy? Or are we all crazy?! Is Yahoo crazy?!"
"Crazy we all! Crazy for you, our Queen! Crazy for Yahoo!" The excited employees shouted. "Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!"
Marissa, smiling brightly, motioned for Eve to follow her. Eve headed for the steps, whispering to Oliver and Yuliya as she passed. "I need to talk to her alone. Both of you stay here. I think you're safe. See what you can find out from the others." They nodded.
As Eve joined her up the steps, Marissa lead her through the ancient stone entrance. At first glance it appeared the temple simply vanished into the jungle, but the entrance actually led into a maze of half standing stone walls with roofs of camouflage netting. Between the walls were Tiki village style offices, conference rooms and work stations outfitted with handcrafted bamboo and rattan cubicles, office chairs and desks. Wooden idols, colorful hand woven fabrics and tribal weapons decorated the walls. It was a mix of Trader Vics and the Flintstones. Dozens of employees, similarly dressed in native jungle style, appeared to be actually working at state-of-the-art computer consoles and networking equipment. Eve noted with some comfort that most of the systems were Macintosh, iOS and Linux based. Thankfully no corrupted Android or Microsoft. There was still the possibility of her turning Marissa to her side.
"Employee moral is up 85%. Retention is up 90%. Recruiting is through the roof. Everyone loves the new dress code, playful themed decor and company perks." Marissa said.
"What company perks? You're in the middle of the jungle."
"Free fruit, vegetables and stone ground grain mush. Communal huts. Nightly drum dances and tests of athletic prowess. A variety of natural hallucinogens. Fermented juices. Bounding rituals. Orgies."
Eve raised an eyebrow. Marissa grinned. "I'm telling you, it beats the hell out of Starbucks cards, a gym membership and an employee sushi bar. These days you have to be creative if you want to attract the best tech talent."
"How is your revenue and profit and loss?" Eve asked skeptically.
Marissa waved her off dismissively. "We still have a bundle left over from the Alibaba IPO. Worrying about revenue and profits is pointless in this market. The world as we know it is going away. The G-Blade went on sale today. Only ninety nine dollars each. They're flying off the shelves. Every kid in the world wants one. And every geek too."
Eve's face fell. "I can't believe they got away with it. They might as well give toddlers hand grenades on street corners."
Marissa led Eve into her own office which was much larger than the others. It was decorated around the same theme, but for the addition of large gold tiki idols and a gold Aeron chair behind her executive sized bamboo desk.
"There's no government strong enough to stand up to Google anymore. Let alone the Star Wars Fan lobby. They’ve fought aggressively for open carry laser weapon laws.”
Marissa picked up a remote and clicked a button. Part of a fake stone wall opened to reveal a large flatscreen monitor. She clicked through various ads for the Google Android G-Blade, a full sized working copy of the Star Wars light saber. In one commercial, small children with bright smiles played in a colorful garbage dump, slicing through old tires and car bumpers. Small print at the bottom of the screen read: "USE ONLY WITH ADULT SUPERVISION."
"We estimate that over three hundred million have been shipped and most of them will be sold by the end of this weekend. It’s the biggest product release Google has ever had. It's bigger than the last iCom launch. Bigger than anything Apple has ever done. I don't care what Jobs has under his sleeve this time, he's going to look like a fool at the upcoming Keynote."
"He couldn't care less. The Keynote is the least of our problems."
"THE KEYNOTE IS EVERYTHING!" Marissa shouted angrily. "I know them, Eve. I used to work for Larry Page. I… we… we were… I dated him, Eve. I dated him. I dated Larry Page. I…" Marissa's voice choked off.
"I know, Marissa, I know."
"No! You don't know!” Marissa shook her head, lost in self-loathing. “… the horror. The horror.”
Eve crossed around the desk and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “We all make mistakes, Marissa."
"Not like mine. I used to work for them… the horror."
Marissa slowly stood up and shut off the video screen.
"Why is the Keynote important?" Eve asked firmly.
Marissa pulled herself together. “Because beating Steve Jobs is all that really matters to the Google boys. Their hatred and jealousy is all consuming. They could have destroyed the Earth in a nuclear holocaust years ago. And don't you think they didn't want to. But that wouldn't have really beat Jobs. They had to humiliate him first. With the Android G-Blade, Google finally has a successful commercial hardware product that isn’t just a lousy copy of something Apple already did. They can finally live down Google Glass. They invented a new consumer product category. They will top Steve Jobs in overall sales revenue and units sold. They’ve beat him at his own game. When he goes on the stage, and announces some slight hardware improvements to the iPad, or even a flying car, they'll still have beaten him. After the Keynote is when they'll activate the Wrath of Larry and fire the nuclear weapons. As the radiation washes over the planet, there will be total anarchy on the Earth. All will live and die by the G-Blade. Mutants will arise from the wreckage. There will be a thousand years of darkness as Larry Page promised. And deep in the X-Labs, Sergie is perfecting a new life form to repopulate the planet. Tortured and mutilated, a ruined and terrible form of life to replace mankind forever. That was the goal of Android from the beginning, to warp and destroy humanity.”
Eve suddenly felt tired and depressed. She couldn't remember the last time she had slept or ate. Her entire body seemed to ache from all the bruises and battles.

Marissa smiled, sensing Eve's growing hopelessness. "I'm right, Eve, and you know it in your heart. We can't win. But we can survive in the jungle away from them. A thousand years from now our people can rebuild the world. Everyone has been predicting Yahoo's demise since the beginning of time. But we always survive. Why don't you join us?"


The flames of a giant bonfire rose up from the fire pit like the fingers of a burning hand reaching for the bright moon above. Eve, Yuliya and Oliver sat on grass mats around the festive circle with the other Yahoos as company dancers performed and warrior employees engaged in athletic contests. Food, mostly fruit and ground grain mush, was served on wooden planks from clam shell bowls. Potent drinks were handed out in coconut cups. Marissa sat in a bamboo throne at the top of the stone steps as two muscular bare chested men fanned her with palm fronds. She seemed oddly content.
"Join us." The words echoed in Eve's head as she allowed herself to imbibe more of the jungle juice than she knew was probably good for her. Rather than say "no," Eve had promised Marissa she would think about it, hoping to stall and until she could figure out a way to persuade the jungle fevered CEO to lead Yahoo back onto the battlefield. One thing was certain, Marissa had managed to convince the world that Yahoo was finished, irrelevant, out of the tech wars. But it still had considerable resources. The last thing Google would expect was an assault by Yahoo coming up from Africa into Europe. Marissa did have strong leadership qualities. She knew Google's darkest secrets. Her employees were clearly devoted to her and already outfitted with Apple products. With the right attack plan…
Near the bonfire, a champion was quickly emerging from the games. Bullinda was a giantess, almost seven feet tall and with legs and arms like tree trunks. Her dirty blond hair was buzz cut on the sides with a wild puffy top that made her look like a huge steroid enhanced Bart Simpson. Her skimpy tight fitting fake animal g-string and bikini top seemed ready to burst off her taunt body as she dominated the competition.
She had already won the javelin contest, throwing a spear so straight and strong it shattered a coconut fifty meters away. During the stone throw, she hurled a hundred pound block from a fallen temple wall over twenty feet, twice the distance of the other able competitors.
When the time came for the wrestling contest, there were fewer challengers with the courage to go up against her. Two very large men and another large woman bravely fought her one by one, but she demolished them easily. They were barely able to limp away. Marissa rose from her throne and with a wave of her hand the drumming stopped. She goaded the assembled crowd for another bout. "Come on! Someone else must have the courage to at least try! No one?! No one else is crazy enough to fight Bullinda?!"
Marissa's eyes wandered over the crowd which became sheepishly quiet and still. She then shifted her gaze to Eve, who met it evenly. "What about you, Doctor Zachara? Apple's greatest warrior against Yahoo's own supreme champion."
Eve, never one to run away from a challenge, had toyed with the idea while she was watching the earlier fights, wondering how she might fair. But she had come to the firm conclusion that Bullinda could probably beat her at wrestling even when she was at her well rested best. And right now, she was far from her best. The muscles on her battle bruised body were stiff and painful. Her head was swimming from exhaustion, fermented alcohol, and whatever the hell else was in the jungle juice. She was not interested in making a fool of herself simply on a dare. 
Eve silently shook her head "no." Marissa nodded and let it go. Then Bullinda shot Eve a look of smug contempt that in most circumstances would have brought Eve to her feet. But Eve swallowed her pride and looked down at her coconut cup. Her legs were numb and her head so dizzy she wasn't sure she could easily stand anyway.
The music and dancing started up again and the crowd returned to the festive mood with people congratulating Bullinda on her victories. Eve downed the last of her drink and was handed another by Bobbie, the cute male dancer who had brought her the fur bikini. He was waiting on her hand and foot and flirting the whole time. Yuliya was enjoying the attention of several beautiful women and Oliver was already openly making out with the men from the hunting party who had tied him up. The evening was rapidly shifting from feast to orgy as the dancers stripped off what little clothing they had. The music shifted from strong drums to romantic flutes. Bobbie leaned in and began to nuzzle Eve's ear with soft full lips. He whispered, "You're so beautiful."
Eve preferred the sexual company of women, but when she occasionally indulged in a man, Bobbie was the type she preferred. Lean, smooth, with a girlish face and long hair. He gently kissed her and she didn't resist.
Another lovely looking dancer approached–Eve couldn't tell if it was male or female–and handed Bobbie a small golden chalice. "It's a special drink sent from the queen."
Bobbie took the chalice and offered it to Eve. Inside was a strange, strong smelling liquid with a purple flower floating as decoration. Eve looked up to Marissa on her throne who made eye contact and grinned. It was another dare. This one Eve decided to accept. She raised the chalice to her lips. 
"Sip it slowly," Bobbie said. "It's very strong."
What the hell, Eve thought. They were all doomed anyway. The Earth would descend into a thousand years of darkness and her personal war with Google would end with a whimper in the jungle. She was tired of fighting, of being strong. She took a sip of the thick liquid. It pleasantly stung her tongue with a tart aftertaste that quickly warmed her mouth and then her body. The pain in her limbs began to fade. Her skin began to tingle. Her head felt light. She downed the last drops and then weakly handed the chalice back to Bobbie. He plucked the purple flower out with two delicate fingers painted with glittering pink nail-polish. He offered it to Eve's lips and she allowed him to slip it into her mouth and onto her tongue "The flower is the best part." He said in a sensuous voice. "It will take you to another land."
Eve half-chewed the soft peddles and noticed that Bullinda had cleared the other women away from Yuliya and was claiming her for the orgy. Yuliya did not seem to mind. Oliver had disappeared into a mass of lean male bodies. Eve's eyelids grew heavy and Bobbie and the other dancer helped her lay back on the mat and get comfortable. They stripped off her clothes and began to caress her.
Steve Jobs had famously dropped acid and was very open about the fact he felt it helped his creativity. So several times in her life Eve had emulated her hero and experimented with LSD and other psychedelic substances. But usually in fairly controlled situations and with trusted friends. The key to a good acid trip is to be in the right environment. She had had an amazing LSD trip in the library of Jony Ive's Gold Coast mansion with some British rockers and movie stars. Less pleasant were the magic mushrooms she took with Phil Schiller and some Hell's Angels on a camping trip which left her throwing up right after she won a desert motorcycle race. And, of course, lots of pleasant hashish infused coding sessions with Craig Federighi and Eddie Cue from their custom designed water pipes.
As the dancers massaged her with their hands and showered her with soft kisses, she stared up into the stars, giving her mind permission to go whereever the drug wanted to take her. But the grass matt began to itch against her bare ass. As Bobbie spread her legs apart, she couldn't help but remember she was in the middle of a thick jungle, with God knows what kind of insect life crawling about in the dirt around them. The jungle air was hot and musky. She felt sweat beads sliding down her skin, or was it small bugs? She looked over at the fire pit, which had been fading but now seemed to grow as she watched it. A burning eye formed in the center of the flame. Like the holographic eye over Google's Tower of Doom. The Eye of Larry!
It was watching her, Google was watching her, Larry was watching her. Eve struggled to get up, but she couldn't move a muscle. Bugs were swarming all over her skin, driving her crazy. Spiders. Spiders with many legs. They were getting larger and larger, spinning out a sticky web that cocooned her legs and arms. The sound of the flutes had morphed into a high pitched shriek from an army of insects.
Then she saw him. When Steve Jobs had told her before about Project Strangelove, Eve had tried to put it out of her mind. She already knew that Google’s X-Labs were capable of the most sick and twisted applications of technology and Project Strangelove was so creepy she had deliberately chosen not to conjure any mental images. But now Google's sinister handywork appeared to her fully realized as Malick emerged out of the jungle canopy and grabbed her up in his sinister clutches.
"Dr. Zarchara, we meet again." Malick's blue skinned face said as thick drool dripped from his chin. "You should have killed me when you had the chance back in Batyr-Aul." He laughed. "Oh, but you DID kill me! Didn't you?! Too bad it didn't last! HA-HA-Haaa!"
Malick's reanimated head was shaved bald and the torn flesh of his neck was bolted into a steal swivel. Wires and tubes emerged from his crown like bad hair implants. It was incased in a clear bullet-proof dome mounted atop an armored weapon's platform propelled by six titanium legs able to crawl over any terrain. Basically, a giant robot spider. Two mechanical arms were mounted on its front and one had grabbed Eve up and slowly crushed her in its iron fingers.
"Like my new look?" Malick said as he shook Eve like a ragdoll. "Say something nice. From now on, we're going to be friends. Intimate friends." A strange slurping sound came from under the armored platform. Half a dozen slimy pink tentacles emerged from below and began to wave around frantically.
Oh, no. Eve thought to herself. Shokushu goukan. It was almost enviable what evil nerds with too much money and power would explore every creepy fantasy they could imagine. Sex robots like Cleona would only be a stepping stone toward even more perverted technology like real life hentai tentacle porn.
"How do you like my new apendages? I love them. They are very sensitive." Malick said as the wet bulbous heads of the tentacles stroked Eve's face and explored her body like giant tongues.
"Eve!" A voice shouted. "Are you alright?" It was Yuliya, running through the jungle to rescue her. "Let her go! Let her go!"
"Ah-hah! A threeway! Just what I wanted!" Malick brayed as his free robot arm darted out to grab her. But before the steel fingers could close on her, Yuliya's grabbed them with superhuman strength. Rather than crushing her, Yuliya bent back the robot fingers until they snapped. "I said, let her go!"
Yuliya then grabbed the entire arm and ripped it out from the armored platform. Metal shards and wires burst from its connections with flashes of electric sparks. The pink tentacles turned and attacked, but Yuliya grabbed them one by one and ripped them from the platform like plucking eyebrow hairs. Malick screamed in pain as pink goo bleed from the machine's underbelly.
Yuliya then leapt into the air, several dozen feet high, and she closed her hands into tight fists. Eve suddenly realized she was wearing a Japanese schoolgirl uniform. As Yuliya came flying down onto the armored platform, her fists shattered into the bullet proof dome.
"No!" Malick shouted as the dome burst apart and Yuliya ripped his head off of the platform. "Not again!"
"Leave my friend alone!" Yuliya shouted as she kicked the head off into the jungle. She continued punching into the armor, her fists driving holes clean through, until it burst into flames. She leapt back into the air just as it exploded.
The robot arm holding Eve let go and she dropped. She found herself back on grass matt and realized it was all a dream. Yuliya's project A-Ko outfit finally tipped her off. Eve closed her eyes tightly and tried to focus her mind. As she opened them again she found herself in Yuliya's arms. Yuliya was naked, and Bobbie and the dancer looked on with her concerned.
"Are you okay?" Yuliya asked. "You were screaming."
"I think you might have got a bad flower." Bobbie offered apologetically.
Eve still felt weak, but she finally was able to move her limbs again. Yuliya helped her sit up. Behind her, Bullinda kneeled and gently put her huge paw to Eve's forehead. "You're burning up. You need to lay off the juice for the rest of the night."
Eve slapped Bullinda's hand away. "Don't touch me!"
"Hey, I'm just trying to help."
"I don't need any help." Eve said as she tried to get to her feet, stumbling and falling back to her knees.
Bullinda rose and took Yuliya's hand to lead her away. "You heard her, she doesn't need any help."
But Yuliya wouldn't move. She stood by as Eve struggled to get to her feet alone and then staggered toward the fire pit. The flames were almost out. Eve fell to her knees again and threw up in the dirt. She kept puking until she was sure she had gotten out as much as she could from her stomach.
She crawled over to some “clean” dirt nearby. It was warm for its proximity to the fire. She picked up two handfuls of hot sand and tiny pebbles and gripped it tightly. The solid texture helped bring her back to reality and ease her nausea. She rubbed some of the dirt onto her face to wipe off the sweat and vomit then brushed her skin clean.
Everyone was staring at her, thinking she was still crazy. Marissa came down from her throne to check on her.
Eve straightened. That was it. She thought. No more relaxing. No more being weak. Or tired or drunk. No more being rescued by Uzbekian slave girls in space suits, schoolgirl uniforms or naked. She was a fucking Apple Vice President. She would not let her guard down again until Google was completely destroyed. Yes, Malick's spider machine attack had just been a dream. But Jobs told her there was a real one somewhere, with or without porn inspired tentacles. Whatever it was, Eve would make sure when it came after her, she would be alert and armed to teeth and blow it away.
Meantime, to destroy Google she needed these crazy Yahoos and would do whatever it took to get them.
"Are you alright, Eve?" Marissa asked.
Eve cut Marissa a sharp look with her dirty face and bright intense eyes. "I accept your challenge.”
"Yahoo's champion against Apple's."
Marissa shrugged. "When?"
"Right now."
"You don't want to rest first?"
"No." Eve turned and saw Bullinda approaching, shaking her head incredulously. The rest of the Yahoos were also watching. Oliver, having emerged from his own wrestling matches, shook his head. Yuliya silently approached, concerned.
Eve continued. “But here are the terms. If I win: Yahoo mobilizes its forces and drives Google out of North Africa."
"And if Yahoo wins?"
"You become the default search engine on iOS."
Marissa swallowed. Her face became pale. It was almost too good to be true. "Steve Jobs will approve it?”
"Yes." Eve lied, knowing Jobs would never make the deal but hoping Marissa might believe he would.
Marissa paced, thinking. "I must admit, it is something I have lusted after. Something I want more than anything else… but still. You aren't in much of a bargaining position, Eve. For me to risk all my troops in more bloody war…”
"Do you take it, or not?" Eve said firmly.
"If you lose, we become the default search engine and we stay in the jungle. If you win, we will fight with you, but you have to give us search anyway. Either way, we become the default."
"Deal." Eve said quickly and put out her hand. She knew Marissa would need a reason to fight, and the hope of becoming the iOS default would spur on her troops. Eve would have to figure out how to stall until they found out the truth that she didn't have Job’s authority.
Marissa spit on her hand and then shook Eve's happily. But Bullinda stepped over. "What about me? What do I get out of it?"
"What do you want?" Eve asked.
"Her." Bullinda said, pointing to Yuliya. "I want her."
"Deal." Eve said quickly. She ignored the frozen look on Yuliya's face. She couldn't read it anyway. Perhaps Yuliya was concerned for Eve's safety in the soon to begin battle, or perhaps she was hurt at being offered as a prize again. Or… Eve didn't have time to worry about it.
Bullinda swaggered over to the fighting ring. Eve knew she didn't have any chance of beating her in a real wrestling competition. Not in a fair fight with any semblance of rules. Eve would have to cheat; she would have to fight dirty. She would have to do it quickly in order for Bullinda not to have any opportunity to fight back. Because there wasn't a hope in hell of Eve lasting through a long battle with this giantess. Her attack would have to be unexpected. Her win would have to be quick and decisive.
But it wasn't.
It was the toughest fight of Eve's life.

To be continued…