YAHOO SECRET HEADQUARTERS - AFRICA
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?"
BONFIRE - YAHOO SECRET HEADQUARTERS - AFRICA
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?"
"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…
Next episode: Nile on Fire