YAC ALENIA C–27T SPARTAN - SKIES OVER NORTH AFRICA
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.
“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.
MOSCONE CENTER - SAN FRANCISCO
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.
STAGE - MOSCONE EAST - SAN FRANCISCO
“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?”
“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!”
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