Episode Eleven: Africa on Fire

CONGO TRAIL - CENTRAL AFRICA
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.

NIGHT CAMP - CENTRAL AFRICA
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.

FLASHBACK - BONFIRE - YAHOO SECRET HEADQUARTERS
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.

NIGHT CAMP - CENTRAL AFRICA
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…
Next episode: Revolt in the Desert

Episode Ten: The Horror

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.”
"What?"
"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…

Episode Nine: The Jungle Queen

VIRGIN LIFEPOD - REENTRY - EARTH

Flames returned to blue skies as the lifepod slowed to subsonic speeds. A pilot chute deployed and pulled with it a giant Rogallo parawing. The parawing unfolded like an angel spreading its wings. It was a giant white triangle with the red Virgin logo in its center. After a few rough tugs, it steadied the lifepod's decent from a free fall into a sweeping flight down to the Earth below.
Eve, generally recovered, moved up to the seat next to Oliver to assist him with the landing coordinates. As she did, she had a brief moment to appreciate how beautifully build the little lifepod was. With the white parawing deployed overhead, it reminded her of a finely crafted sailboat. There were lovely wood details around the control console and the seats were fine leather. Even in emergency equipment, Virgin was first class.
Oliver became concerned as Eve programmed in a new flight plan. "Mogadishu? Isn't that Google territory?"
"It's no man's land now. Total anarchy." Eve said. "But we just opened an Apple store in the city. I can put together a commando team to journey up river into the jungle and you and Yuliya can airlift back to San Francisco."
"I want to stay with you." Yuliya protested. Eve ignored her.
"Who are you looking for?" Oliver asked. "Aren't the jungles controlled by that crazy woman?"
"That's who I'm looking for."
Oliver's face whitened at the thought. "I'd better send a message to headquarters telling them we're changing course, so they…"
Eve cut him off. "No. I'll notify Apple and they can get word to Virgin. We have to be very careful about all communications now.” Eve pulled her iCom from the hip pocket on her Spacesuit. The battery was dead. “Can this ship have encrypted email?"
"Of course." Oliver said and activated the computer’s messaging system. Eve leaned over to start a message. She suddenly stopped dead.
"Wait a second. What operating system is this running?"
"Android 8.2: Serpent."
"Android! Are you people insane?"
"Virgin had a deal with Google. That was before the attack, obviously. But it's a secure version. Our tech people checked it over."
"Android is never secure! Did you send any other messages?"
"Just that we found you and…"
Eve winced. "I'm going to have to try to hack it and override the…” But as Eve typed into the computer it froze up. "Dammit! Someone has already hacked into it."
Oliver glanced over at the map display. "We're changing course again. Oh, no… no…"
Eve checked the new course and mumbled with an unsurprised half-smile. "Mountain View. They're taking us right to the Tower of Doom."
She tried a another approach to hack into the computer. "Maybe there's someway… wait a second…" The system flashed and rebooted. The lifepod shook as the parasail controls briefly shut off. When the system came back on, the lifepod abruptly changed course again. The nose of the parasail tipped down and it's decent quickened.
"What's happening now?" Yuliya asked.
"It seems like someone else has remotely hacked into it."
"Who else? Apple?" Oliver asked.
"No. Someone else… it…" Eve checked the course. "We're heading into the jungle."
"At this speed, we're going to crash." 
He was right. The lifepod was just on the edge of being in a total freefall. It rocked unsteadily under the parasail as it hurled to Earth.
Eve pulled panels from under the computer console, hoping to find a way to do a hardware hack. But there wasn't time. A hard jerk shook through the cabin as the parasail’s nose rose. The lifepod's decent slightly slowed. Eve glanced out the front and saw they were heading straight into a thick African jungle. The speed had decreased just enough that there was a chance they might survive a crash.
"Ready for impact!" Eve checked Yuliya's seat belts and then tightened her own. "Take a deep breath, exhale and relax your body just as we hit!"
CRASH!
The lifepod burst through branches, leaves and vines of a thick jungle canopy. It's parasail tangled in the tree tops even as the lifepod continued down.
SPLASH!
The lifepod landed in the murky waters of a jungle swamp. If it had been dirt, or anything harder, the lifepod would have shattered. Instead, it rocked and settled in the waters with its occupants shaken badly, but alive.
Eve's already battered body ached once again, but she shook it off and jumped into action. She unbuckled her seat belt and retrieved her laser pistol.
Oliver, also recovering, tried to check the location but the entire computer system was dead. "Where are we?"
"The bigger question is who brought us here. It's no accident we landed here, and that we're alive."

JUNGLE RIVER - SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA

Fortunately, the lifepod was built for water landings and floated safely above the swamp. Eve opened the canopy and checked the surroundings. The three removed their space helmets and took in the musky foliage scented air. Cords from the parasail ran up into the trees like a spiderweb, and held the lifepod in the middle of the swamp.
"There's a little bit of a current. Let's see if we can float downstream. Help me undo the cords."
Oliver nodded and they both headed to the rear of the lifepod. Yuliya was looking into the jungle and as Eve passed she tugged on her arm and nodded meaningfully toward a large nearby tree. Eve nodded too, indicating she also noticed it.
As Oliver and Eve unhooked the parasail cords, Eve softly whispered to him. "We're being watched. From the trees. All around us." Oliver swallowed.
Once free from the ruined parasail, the little lifepod began to stir and then drift through the swamp.
Oliver produced two emergency telescoping paddles from the lifepod's survival kit. Yuliya insisted on taking one of them, so she and Oliver rowed while Eve stood guard with her pistol and navigated them toward a stronger current.
"Where to?" Oliver whispered.
"Let's start by getting as much distance as we can from where we landed. And see if they follow us."
As they rowed, the lifepod picked up speed and then found it's way into a deeper section of the swamp where a river current was running. Eve discretely kept an eye on the treetops around them.
“Did we lose them?" Oliver asked softly.
"Nope. They're following us. And there are more ahead."
Oliver and Yuliya started rowing faster. The swamp waters emerged into a clear jungle river. Eve cautioned them. "Not too fast. And stay near the edges of the river. We don't know where this is going…"
Suddenly, a wooden spear flew down from the trees behind them and richocetted off the side of the lifepod. It was followed by more spears which stabbed into the water all around the boat. Oliver and Yuliya rowed frantically, trying to gain speed to out run them. Eve spun with her laser pistol, debating firing a warning shot. "Hold on, hold on. Either they're really horrible throwers, or they're not trying to hit us. They're trying to scare us."
"Tell them I'm scared." Oliver offered.
"Stop rowing." Eve ordered. By now the lifepod was moving swiftly in the river current and gaining speed on its own. Rapidly gaining speed.
"Oh, no. Quick! Row us to the edge."
Oliver and Yuliya tried to row the boat over to the edge of the advancing river, but the lifepod was too awkward to steer. Eve looked ahead and could see the river rushing rapidly. And then she heard it. The sound of roaring water. The sound of a great waterfall.
"Get the life vests!" Eve shouted to Oliver as she grabbed the paddle from him. She tried to use it to catch onto an overhead branch, but the trees were too high. Ahead she could see the river plummeting over a waterfall into blue skies. Oliver rummaged through the survival kit and had produced some inflatable vests. But before he could hand them off, the lifepod sailed right over the edge of the waterfall and flipped over, tossing the three of them out.


LAKE - SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA

Eve free fell for a brief moment, catching glimpses of the giant waterfall, a small lake below and endless jungles beyond. A second later she splashed into the lake and the momentum drove her deep into the waters. Her spacesuit began to instantly fill up with water. Perhaps with the helmet on it would have been buoyant, but without it, it clearly wasn't. Worse, it seemed to be dragging her down, or at least interfering with her swimming. She only had a second or two to make a decision, and she decided she had to get out of it pronto. She tore into the seals and stripped it off as quickly as she could. It slowly sank as she swam toward the surface.
Eve’s head popped out and she caught a breath. Almost immediately, a bare shouldered Yuliya appeared nearby, having discarded her own spacesuit too. They looked around. No sign of Oliver. The overturned lifepod was drifting away. They looked at each other, nodded, and both dove back under.
Underwater, Eve caught sight of Oliver struggling to get off his own suit as he sunk further. Yuliya made it to him first. Oliver couldn't breathe and was panicking. Eve reached him and, together, she and Yuliya tore his suit away and pulled him up to the surface.
But by the time they made it up, Oliver was passed out. If he had swallowed a lot of water, he was going to die quickly. Eve pulled him into a lifeguard hold and dragged him to the lakeside. Yuliya swam after them.


LAKE EDGE - SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA

They made it to a sandy bank and both carried him up onto it. Eve rolled him to his side to clear the water from his throat and began mouth to mouth resuscitation. Oliver gasped and then coughed. He took a breath on his own. Yuliya looked at Eve and smiled. Eve helped Oliver half up and the three of them sat for a second in their wet underwear. Oliver was wearing skimpy Calvin Klein briefs, Eve mismatched boy shorts and sports bra and Yuliya topless with tiny lace panties borrowed from Lorena. They were soaked and cold, but gratefully to be alive.
That's when the nets flew down on top of them. Before they could react, they were attacked by dozens of jungle natives from all around. Despite a fierce struggle they were pinned down, tied, gagged and hung under bamboo poles. Their underwear was cut from their bodies with crude blades and discarded.  Naked, they were carried off as captured hunting prizes.


JUNGLE - SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA

When Yuliya was only five years old, her parents were murdered when the Uzbekistan city of Zarafshan fell to a Google backed dictatorship. That was the first time she had been tied and gagged. But not the last. She was sold as a slave in the market and then was later traded to rebels for a small shipment of uranium ore. Until Eve rescued her, she had never been out of the vast Kyzylkum Desert. Her knowledge of the rest of the world came from the brief moments she was allowed access to the internet, and from movies the rebels would occasionally watch. She dreamed of one day traveling to big glamorous cities like New York, Paris and Rome. She had never thought much about Africa and what little she knew of it was from old Hollywood movies. Usually white hunters with guns fighting dark skinned natives with spears. However, she had seen a couple great rap videos from Nigeria, and assumed that these days most African people lived in large cities with modern conveniences.
But the jungle men and women who had captured them fit the primitive native stereotypes she had seen in old movies. They were barefoot and mostly naked, accept for warpaint, tribal tattoos and tiny strips of animal skins over their crotches. Their noses and ears had numerous piercings decorated with tiny colorful beads. They carried spears and other crude weapons.
But they were not all dark skinned and dark haired. Most were shades of pale white, many had blond or red hair, along with freckles and reddish sunburns. They were chanting a strange word over and over that didn't sound like English or any African language. What Yuliya couldn't know is that they weren't natives at all. Most had graduated with computer science degrees from various tech colleges in the United States before their leader had brought them into this strange distant place.
"Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!" They chanted over and over again as they carried their three prizes through hidden passages in dark, dense foliage to some secret jungle lair.
Nearby, Eve pondered their situation, still angry with herself that in her exhausted state she hadn't put up a better fight when they were attacked. Her hands and feet were securely bound together with thick hemp and she helplessly dangled from the pole as it was carried by two large men on either end. She guessed that she could probably rip her hands free, undoubtedly losing some flesh in the process, but she was certain she couldn't free her feet before they responded. Better to wait for a more promising opportunity. A knot of leather forced between her teeth by the mouth gag reminded her of her brief flirtation with S&M back in graduate school. She realized then she didn't like being tied up, and she still didn't.
"Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!" The chants continued as the triumphant hunting party made its way out of thick jungle and into a hidden clearing.
As Oliver dangled under his pole, carried by two husky women, he marveled at their fascinating tattoos and piercings. The men in the war party where extremely muscular and he wondered what their workout regime might be. He was worried but not completely frightened as he swayed back and forth. If they had wanted to kill him, they could have already. And after all the death defying close calls of their escape from the Aurora, it was almost comforting to rest and allow someone else to take charge. The men who had bound him so quickly were clearly experts and while the knots were firm, they weren't too painful. Almost pleasantly tight. It was hardly the first time he had been tied up naked. He just hoped he wouldn't get an erection in front of everyone.
In the center of the clearing was a ritual fire-pit and beyond it the ruins of a great temple, mostly fallen and reclaimed by the jungle. The weathered and mold covered remains of the temple’s arched entrance still stood. It was made of large hand cut stones weighing tons each. Stone steps lead down from it to the fire pit. Already the hunting party was preparing for a victory celebration. The sun was setting and dried branches and leaves were piled high in the pit to fuel a great fire. Hidden around the clearing were handcrafted huts. Half-naked dancers decorated in feathers and flowers, male and female, emerged from the huts and began to dance around the hunting party in anticipation. They joined the chant: "Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!"
A beautiful and regal looking woman appeared at the top of the steps to the temple. She was dressed as a sexy jungle queen, in Cheetah fur hot pants and bra, with gold bangles on her wrists and ankles. Her blond hair was long and wild like a lion's mane with accents of tiny braids decorated with golden jewelry. Red tattoos of magical symbols covered her pale skin. In one hand she brandished a long sharp gold ceremonial dagger.
The prisoners were carried to the foot of the temple entrance and held for display. The jungle queen smiled as she slowly came down the steps to inspect them. She begin with Yuliya, admiring her young firm breasts and running a finger of her free hand around her deep brown eyes. "Lovely creature. Absolutely lovely."
Next she examined Oliver, grabbing his chin firmly in her hand to turn his handsome face toward her. "You're quite beautiful too." She ran the tip of her dagger over his bare chest, not cutting his skin, but firmly enough to leave a light pink mark. She noticed he had an erection and snickered.
Lastly, she approached Eve, delighting in her helplessness. She eyed her lovely strong naked body possessively and cupped Eve's ass firmly with her free hand. It was not a hostile grip, or even particularly sexual. It was rather familiar and welcoming. The chants of "Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!" grew louder around them and the wild dancing became more frantic.
"Doctor Zachara, I presume." The jungle queen said. "I hear you wanted to see me."
The jungle queen raised her dagger close to Eve's face and hesitated for a moment. The setting sun glinted off its gold surface. With a quick slice of its razor sharp edge, the blade cut the gag free. Eve spit out the leather.
"Yes, Marissa. We need to talk. If you can spare a moment.” Eve said dryly as she continued to dangle under the pole.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, laughed loudly.



To be continued…

Episode Eight: Battle of the Aurora

GOOGLE DEATHDEALER - HIGH ORBIT

The Google Deathdealer Dreadnoughts looked a lot like the Battlestar Galactica from the old TV series with some Imperial Star Destroyer features tacked on at the last minute. This was because that was exactly what happened. Sergey Brin really wanted to go full out Battlestar Galactica because the Star Wars Tie Fighter based Google TOGs had become a running joke in the chat rooms. Google's new FANG, another short range space fighter, was modeled heavily on the Battlestar Vipers, which turned out to be a more practical form. So sticking with a Battlestar theme made sense to Brin for the mothership design, but at the last minute Larry Page freaked out and insisted on the new ships looking like Imperial Star Destroyers, which was impossible given the Google's timeline for the assault on the Aurora. Sergey did what he could to placate Larry by adding a completely useless conning tower but the whole thing ended up looking like a mess. Even worse, there wasn't time to build enough FANGs. So half the short range fighters were old TOGs and the fighter fleet had no consistent theme at all. On top of that, Larry and Sergey got into a huge fight about what FANG stood for. Sergey just felt it stood for Fangs of Google, without the Google part. But Larry wanted it to be an abbreviation for Falcon Attack Next Generation, which just seemed stupid to Sergey since there never had been a first generation Google Falcon. Moreover, Sergey would just die if people thought it was supposed to be based on the Millennium Falcon which would be chat room hell all over again.
The only good news was they had succeeded in getting the jump on the Aurora and Amazon's new battle fleet and it looked like it would be a pretty easy slaughter, which was how Sergey preferred his space battles.
Amazon's own attack fighters were demolishing the lousy TOGs one by one, but the new FANGs were more sturdy and Sergey was sure they would win the day thanks to superior numbers. The new Deathdealer plasma torpedoes, much to Sergey's surprise, managed to hit their target rather than self-imploding as they had in tests. If the Deathdealers could manage to get a second volley off without falling apart, the Aurora would be doomed, along with the leaders of every major Google competitor.
But despite imminent victory, Sergey was pensive as he paced around the flagship Deathdealer's bridge in his squeaky Iron Man costume. Larry rarely left Google's Tower of Doom in the Googleplex anymore, so Sergey was leading the attack. Away from Larry he could dress however he liked and Iron Man was his favorite. Even though his suit couldn't fly, the fake ARC reactor glowed on his chest and that looked pretty spiffy.
"You seem sad, dear." Eve said as she ran a sympathetic hand over his armored shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts." She was dressed as Kitana from the Mortal Combat video game, without the face mask, of course. The skimpy blue silk revealed every delicious curve on her body and she smiled at Sergey winsomely. Sergey couldn't resist but to briefly smile back, then quickly forced his lips to straighten.
"It's nothing. Nothing. What's the status on the plasma torpedoes?"
"There are some problems loading in the second volley.  They seem to be overheating in the chambers.”
"I knew they would screw up! They were glitchy all the way through development! These new state of the art weapon systems can not be rushed and we wasted all that time attaching the stupid Star Destroyer conning tower!"
"Serg, baby, relax. Your plan is working brilliantly. The Aurora is already in flames. The FANGs will be able to finish it off, even if we can’t get the torpedoes working again. What's really bothering you, my love?"
Sergey sighed. "I don't know. I just… I feel so alone."
"Even with me at your side?" Eve said warmly.
Sergey abruptly turned away and burst. "You're not really Eve! You're just a stupid robot Eve! I want the real Eve!”
"I'm better than the real Eve." The robot Eve said firmly.
"She has to be on the Aurora. She must have managed to get the Pogo Rocket there after destroying the TOGs we sent for her. How she did all that with an unarmed ship I can't imagine. She’s so incredible.”
"If she is on the Aurora, then she will soon be dead."
"But Larry wants her alive!"
"You don't have to do everything Larry says. You're better than him!"
"I am?" Sergey asked softly and slowly turned back to her.
"Much better than him." Robot Eve said, taking his chin in her hand.
"You're just saying that because I programmed you to say it!"
"Sergey, listen to me." Robot Eve held his chin and looked deeply into his eyes. "I'm serious. I am a testament to how great you really are. You are a genius. Like Tony Stark."
"I can't even get my Iron Man armor to fly!" Sergey said, tears welling in his eyes.
"You will. You will, dear. Now stop thinking about Larry, and stop thinking about the real Eve. She's dead. I'm the real Eve now and I love you. Focus on what a great leader you are and let's defeat those Amazon turds. Okay?" Robot Eve smiled again and Sergey's heart melted.
"Okay." He said, feeling better.

HOTEL SUITE - AURORA - VIRGIN HOTELS GROUP

Back on the Aurora, in Bezos' hotel suite the real Eve could see through the floor to ceiling windows that Amazon’s space fleet was mounting a counterattack on Google’s. But it was too late to save the Aurora; the docking hub in the center of the space station was burning uncontrollably and the fires were spreading though the carousel spokes toward the outer loop of the hotel. The entire station would soon be gone. Her thoughts were confirmed when the windows in front of her started cracking from the structural damage and air began to escape.
Bezos hit a button on his Space Admiral armor and a retractable helmet and visor sealed over his head, Iron Man style. He looked at Eve with a smug smile. "And you thought this was too much, didn't you? It wasn't vanity. I like to be prepared."
Eve said nothing, but silently admitted he was right. She rushed over to the suite's emergency station and grabbed a stock helmet for herself and snapped it into her Virgin Galactic spacesuit. The cracks in the windows were spreading rapidly.
Bezos radioed into his helmet, "Amazon Fleet, this is big leader. I'm safe and will be joining you soon." He turned to Eve. "You'd better take one of the lifepods while you still can. This station is doomed."
"What are you going to do?" Eve asked.
“I’m going to join up with my fleet and try to hold them off until you and the others can escape.” At that moment, the windows completely shattered and what was left of the air in the hotel suite rushed out in a single burst. Eve grabbed onto the bar to stop herself from going with it. Bezos hit a button on his armor and a jet pack on his back fired up. He rocketed out the missing window and flew into space. Right toward the raging battle between his fleet and Google’s.
The room’s gravity was fading and becoming unsteady as the spinning station wobbled and slowed without the balance of the demolished hub. Alarms flashed everywhere and a message came over the loud speakers: “Alert! All personnel head to the lifepod stations for emergency evacuation. This is not a drill." Eve was only modestly surprised the recorded voice was again Panther, the hip-hop star who had done the countdown. Branson liked his celebrity connections. Eve rushed out the suite.

CORRIDOR - AURORA - VIRGIN HOTELS GROUP

Despite the chaos, the Virgin staff was highly professional and organized as they directed the guests to the hundreds of lifepods situated all around the circular hotel facilities. Guests helmets and spacesuits were checked before being loaded into small four person lifepods which were sealed and shot down to Earth. The craft would be easy targets for Google's fighters but there were obviously no better alternatives.
Arianna spotted Eve and rushed over, grabbing her arm. "Quick, this way. I saved a spot for you on Branson's private ship."
"I've got to find Yuliya."
"There's not room for two more. She'll be fine with the others."
"I can't."
"Suit yourself." Arianna rushed off, grabbing a dazed Leo Laporte and leading him away.
The corridor went black as the power cut off. Small yellow emergency lights kicked on. Eve rushed past hotel staff as they tried to direct her to the lifepods. She scanned the crowds, searching for Yuliya.
A voice came up in her helmet radio. "Eve? It's Oliver! Are you okay?"
"Yes! Where's Yuliya?"
"I've got her. We're at life station 5."
"Then go ahead and leave while you can!"
"Yuliya won't go. She won't get into the lifepod without you."
"Okay! I'm coming!" Eve had feared as much. She ran down the curving corridor checking for the numbered life stations. She ran past station 8 and then station 7. She picked up speed as once she knew she was going in the right direction. Another explosion rocked the station and what tiny fingers of gravity had been holding her feet to the floor fell away.
Her momentum floated her up into the center of the corridor but she soon began to slow and drift. She frantically tried to swim herself forward but it was almost useless. Damn, that smug Bezos with his jet pack, she thought. She finally drifted far enough to what had been the roof of the corridor that she was able to kick something solid and propel herself forward and down to the floor. As she flew down to the former floor, she fiercely kicked off again, forward and up. She continued on in the same way, ricocheting between the floor and roof until she finally reached station 6. Everyone, including the staff, were gone. All the lifepods had taken off.
Oliver's voice came through her headset again. "Eve?"
"I'm coming! I'm close."
An even larger blast tore through the station again. This time bursting the corridor in front of Eve and filling it with fire and fury. The concussion from the explosion send Eve hurling back through the tube, like a bullet shooting out of a gun barrel. In the wrong direction. Eve shouted into the headset as she tumbled past station 7. "Oliver! Oliver! I can't get to you! You have to go now! Drag Yuliya in if you have to! Tell her I order her to go! Tell her I order her!"
Before Eve could hear a reply, a defining sound and flash of light followed by more fire and shattering particles enveloped everything around her. The force of it crushed her body like being squeezed in a giant burning fist. She blacked out.

HIGH ORBIT

Eve regained consciousness slowly. She felt pleasantly warm and sleepy, drifting in the zero gravity like flying in a dream. She heard what sounded like distant knocking on her bedroom door, as if her mother was trying to wake her in the morning. She forced herself to open her eyes, she didn't want to be late for school.
She instantly snapped back into reality. The Aurora was completely destroyed, reduced to chunks and bits around her. Small pieces banged into Eve's helmet with loud thumps. She felt warm because she was freezing to death, her space suit was not insulated enough to withstand prolonged exposure to the coldness of the airless vacuum. She knew she had been right to be suspicious of its sexy form fitting design. As she moved her body, every bone and muscle ached in sharp pain. She checked the spacesuits bio reading on her forearm display. She had about five minutes of oxygen left.
Eve never feared death; she had come so close to it so many times fighting for Apple she usually was more surprised when she lived. But she hated being helpless, and as she assessed her situation she couldn't come up with any possible plan that might offer even a shred of hope. She was floating without any possibility of directing her path and no nearby refuge to seek even if she could. There was simply nothing to do but wait until her oxygen ran out, or she froze to death first.
Out past the ruin of the Aurora, she could see the spectacular battle still going on between the space fleets of Amazon and Google. She now had time to study the odd design of the Google Deathdealers, which looked if someone had changed their mind midway through construction. She took note of the new Google FANGs. Not being a Battlestar Galactica fan, she didn't recognize them, other than to note the design seemed more practical than the fragile TOGs. Amazon's fleet was made up of three types of space craft, none of which were based on any comic books or movies. There was the mid-sized Amazon Battlecruiser, similar in design to their standard cargo/passenger craft but more heavily armored and bristling with weapon's systems. The Amazon Hammerhead was their two person light attack fighter, deriving its name from the heavy armor plating on its front. Finally there was the Amazon Man-of-War, their largest craft and the mother ship for the Hammerheads. It was longer than five football fields, but still a third of the size of the Google Deathdealers.
In terms of force strength, from what Eve could tell Google had gone into the battle with a enormous numerical advantage. She had counted at least ten Deathdealers back in Bezos hotel suite and hundreds of attack fighters. The Amazon forces she had viewed upon her arrival at the Aurora consisted of two Man-of-War, six Battlecruisers and a few dozen Hammerheads. Now, from what she could tell, five of the Deathdealers were missing, at least three destroyed and the field was littered with demolished TOGs. It didn't appear that Amazon had lost any of its capital ships.
Despite the loss of the Aurora, the tide seemed to be turning in Amazon's favor. During the war briefing Admiral Bezos had reveled that Amazon's space weapons strategy was very different than Google's. Google's weapons were all light based, mazer and laser. (Eve would only learn later about their new plasma torpedoes.) Amazon had a few beamed weapons, mostly for anti-missile defense, but their main attack weapons were kinetic railgun cannons that fired depleted uranium shells that could cut through just about anything. On top of that, Amazon had invented a reflective coated and heat shielded armor that stood up well against Google's light based weapons.

SILVER KNIGHT - AMAZON MAN-O-WAR - HIGH ORBIT

On Amazon's flagship Man-O-War, the Silver Knight, Admiral Bezos was also assessing the battlefield, though more pensively. The railgun cannons had turned out to be very effective against the Google TOGs, but much less so against the new FANGs which were better armored, faster and more maneuverable. Thanks to their own armor, Amazon had not lost any big ships and most of their fighter fleet was intact. But Bezos was concerned about this powerful new weapon Google had. It had wiped out the Aurora in just a few shots but for some reason they had not turned it upon the Amazon fleet. Even more mysteriously, five of the giant Deathdealers had blown up on their own, or at least Bezos had no information to indicate it had anything to do with their counterattack. The remaining Deathdealers seemed to be holding up well against Amazon’s attacks, if only due to their huge size. The biggest question in Bezos mind was how many more Deathdealers there might be floating in orbit and what other secret weapons systems Google might have. He started to worry about the safety of Amazon's own half-a-dozen space stations. So far there were no reports of impending attacks on them.
Bezos knew he had to fight Google off long enough to give the executives on the Aurora a chance to escape on the lifepods. But they were long gone and the Aurora itself was a total lost. With no clear victory in sight, Bezos made a decision not to chance any significant losses.
"Let's get the hell out of here." He said to his Executive Officer. "There's nothing to fight for anymore.”

GOOGLE DEATHDEALER - HIGH ORBIT

"They're retreating." Robot Eve told Sergey.
"Good! We'll hunt them down like dogs and give no quarter." Brin said, bursting with confidence. But his face filled with doubt as Robot Eve looked at him with arched eyebrows. "Don't you think?"
"No." Robot Eve said. "We'd better cut our losses while we can. We took care of the Aurora. We need time to regroup and study the fight data.”
Sergey paced unhappily. Robot Eve was right and he knew it. Amazon's fleet was not made up of helpless sitting ducks like the weaponless Virgin Pogo Rockets and the Aurora. They seemed to have armor systems that held against the mazers, and their railgun cannons were deadly. The only thing that would have worked against Amazon's big ships were the new plasma torpedoes, but five of the Deathdealers had self-destructed because of torpedo malfunctions. Fortunately, Robot Eve had quickly sent orders to stop using them before the entire fleet was gone. Meanwhile, almost every TOG had been destroyed; Sergey was actually grateful for that, but there had been a significant loss of life on Google's side. That was not good for morale, even within an evil empire.
"What do you think we should do?" Sergey asked.
"Head back to the Wrath of Larry." Robot Eve said firmly. "This Amazon fleet is much bigger and more powerful than we suspected. But wasn't built to defend the Aurora. They had to have to be planning an attack themselves. They probably want to take out the Wrath of Larry nuclear deterrent."
"Yeah, I worried about that too." Sergey sighed.
"We have to get the plasma torpedoes perfected. And while we're at it, we can go full out Battlestar Galactica. You can tell Larry the conning towers were a problem in battle."
"Wow!" Sergey bubbled. "That's a great idea. We'll blame everything on the conning towers!"

HIGH ORBIT

Eve watched as the two warring space fleets, the largest by far ever assembled by mankind, almost simultaneously abandoned the zero gravity battlefield and left in opposite directions. As her body continued to succumb to the dizzying warmth of hypothermia, she felt mildly disappointed. Not that she had held out any hope either side could have rescued her. She was merely one speck out of a million in the expanding cloud of rubble from the Aurora. But she missed having a show to watch and a side to root for. However significant, or not, the losses Google suffered, they had succeeded in destroying the Aurora, and it appeared the Amazon fleet had fled first. Google supporters would be insufferable for days on the social media.
Her oxygen lamp flashed red to indicate her air supply was gone. She had tried using her helmet radio to contact the Amazon fleet, even hacking it through her forearm controls to test different frequencies, but it appeared to have too weak of a signal. She took what she imaged might be one last long look at the distant sun, so amazing and powerful from space and then at the moon, so mysterious and cold. She then shifted her eyes to the beautiful Earth, which had created her, wanting her last images to be of it. Her breathing grew shallow as the last traces of oxygen disappeared and the remaining carbon dioxide began to poison her. She wondered how the ultimate battle between Apple and Google would play out. Steve Jobs had been overtly pessimistic the last time they had spoke. “It is always easier to destroy than create,” he had said. Once Google had shifted all its remaining financial resources to mayhem and death, there was little that could be done to stop it, he had told her. Yet she couldn't help but think Jobs had some trick up his sleeve; some rabbit he would pullout of his magical hat, like he did with the iPod when Apple was at its lowest. She hoped he would do it once more before total darkness descended upon humankind.
That was when she spotted it. A tiny shadow of a space craft heading toward her, silhouetted by the blue Earth. It was a Virgin lifepod. As it neared, the polycarbonate canopy split and the rear slid back. A space-suited figure floated out attached to a safety tether. Eve knew instantly it was Yuliya, though her visor simply reflected the bright moon, with crystal clear crafters forming eyes, a nose and even the curves of a smile.
As the lifepod drew closer she could see Oliver piloting it, determined, but concerned. Yuliya continued to float upward, the momentum sending her toward Eve. She was just barely a few feet off in her trajectory, and they both reached out to clasp hands. Yuliya quickly pulled Eve close and snapped another tether onto Eve's belt loop. She did it with such confidence and precision Eve would have assumed she had a lifetime of astronaut training, rather than a hasty pre-rescue briefing from Oliver.
"I can't believe you found me." Eve said through the helmet radio.
Yuliya's face appeared through the visor, gleaming even more brightly than the moon had. "I had to. I love you."
Eve looked into her eyes, sadly. This time, there was no escaping the message her silence sent. Yuliya got it, and it clearly hurt. "Let's get you inside." Yuliya said and went back to business. She began to pull on the tether and drag them both back to the lifepod. Oliver did the same on his end.
Eve's body was so stiff from the cold, and her blood oxygen so low, she could barely do anything to help. She had never been rescued by anyone before. Oh, there were many times in battle where her life had depended on the brave actions of others, Steve Jobs many times, Jony Ive, Tim Cook, and Zuckerberg in Paris. People had covered her back, sent in timely reinforcements, or slaughtered an unseen enemy before they could do Eve harm. But she had never been "rescued" in the sense of being totally helpless and certain to perish without assistance. Even when Jony Ive destroyed the giant Googlebot with a .50 caliber sniper shot to its motherboard just before it pounded down on Eve's head; there was still a tiny chance Eve might have rolled away in time. Assistance had always come while Eve was in battle, and in battle anything was possible. In Paris, when the Google riot suppression offer had a garrett around Eve’s throat, there was still a chance she might have flipped him, even if Zuckerberg hadn’t axed him first. Before there was always at least a sliver or possibility of a different outcome. But this time, with her oxygen gone, and only seconds to spare, it was clear Eve would be dead if Yuliya had even hesitated in her determination to rescue her. And as much as Eve hated being emotionally blackmailed into saying "I love you," she hated being rescued even more. The embarrassment of it made her otherwise dizzily warm body shiver uncomfortably. She fainted.

VIRGIN LIFEPOD - REENTRY - EARTH

When Eve awoke her helmet was off and Yuliya was gently wiping her forehead with a warm towel. Any trace of hurt or disappointment had fallen from Yuliya's face and was replaced by a motherly satisfaction that Eve was safe and doing better. Eve decided she didn't much care much for that expression either.
Oliver monitored the lifepod controls as it tilted its heat shield in the direction of its fall and began reentry. The craft shook as the gravity of Earth grabbed it firmly and pulled it downward. The dark skies of space rapidly turned blue.
"We're going down. It’s going to be a little shaky. All strapped in good?" Oliver said and glanced back at them. Yuliya double checked the belts holding Eve to her chair and nodded. "You doing better?" Oliver said to Eve, seeing she was awake.
"You took a big chance coming back for me." Eve said, her throat painfully dry.
"You have no idea how big. We barely had enough fuel to left to get down to Earth. And we almost got nailed by a few stray shots from the battle. But Yuliya was sure you were alive and we could find you. A sixth sense."
Yuliya nodded and Eve turned to her. "Thank you." Eve said as sincerely as she could, hoping to make up a little for other missing words. Yuliya excitedly popped a big kiss on Eve's lips and then triumphantly strapped back into her chair, mission accomplished.
The blue sky outside turned to red flames as gasses from the thickening atmosphere were compressed by the lifepod’s heat shield until they exploded into fire. Eve took deep breaths to refill her body with as much oxygen as possible; even as she pondered the oxygen burning up outside the ship. Feeling returned to her fingers. "Where is this thing going, Oliver?"
"It's on autopilot to our hotel on Necker Island. Once we land, and a doctor checks you over, you can have a complementary two night stay, or we can fly you anywhere you want to go."
"There's no time. Can you override the controls?"
"Yes but…"
Oliver looked back concerned. "If you're worried about security I can assure you the island is a fortress."
"I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about the Earth. We have little time left to save it."
Oliver nodded. "Where do you want to go?"
"Africa. I have to find someone. And there’s not a second to spare.”



To be continued…