“Android.” The robot commanded.
“Oui, monsieur.” Eve said obediently as she pulled a Moto G from her jacket pocket. She was dressed in a simple peasant skirt and blouse, with cheap stockings, Mary Jane shoes and a worn dark blue jacket with matching Cloche hat pulled low over her eyes. She clicked on the Moto’s identification app and a barcode appeared. She offered it out for the robot to scan.
“Do not speak French.” The robot said in a monotone. “English only. It is the will of Google.”
“Oh, yes. Of course, I forgot. Sorry.” Eve said meekly.
Despite favorable tech news coverage at the time, Google’s purchase of France, and subsequent oppression of its people and culture, had been a disaster from the start, necessitating a large robot force to maintain order. Particularly reviled was Larry Page’s rather random demand that the entire populous switch from French to English. The subtleties of French had always been rather difficult to quantify in search results, so Larry impulsively decided it was better to get rid of the language all together. While there are many things the French people might put up with to keep peace, messing with their language is not one of them. As a result, a large underground resistance was constantly at war with military authorities.
“What is in that case?” The robot asked. The robot was about eight feet tall, with a neckless revolving half circle head not unlike the Android logo but with eyes that glowed red for a menacing touch. It had a shoulder mounted submachine gun on a swivel mount. It was a little rusty around the joints. It was the basic model Google had employed in France for the last decade and this one looked like it had not been upgraded. Internally Google designated it as a B.O.L.R.E., short for Boot of Larry Robot Enforcer. But the French called them “RuBoots.”
“It’s a bassoon.” Eve said. “I’m going to play at the Salle Pleyel tonight.” It was sunset and they were standing at the picturesque corner of Rue Boissiére and Rue de Lübeck. People in the nearby cafes tried to ignore what was unfortunately a common sight, RuBoot’s randomly stopping people for ID checks, weapon and technology searches and general harassment. Across the Seine river nearby, Eve could see the glow of the Eiffel Tower with a hideous giant neon Google logo flashing down its length in garish colors. That was another thing that really pissed off the natives.
“Bassoon’s are not allowed.” The RuBoot said.
Now the robot was beginning to piss Eve off. She knew for a fact that Bassoon’s were one of the few wood wind instruments still allowed in the city; saxophones, of course, having been banned first. She suspected the RuBoots were programmed to arbitrarily enforce imaginary rules just to keep the populous fearful, wary and unhappy.
She was tempted to pull open the case, whip out her new Jony Ive Special Edition Apple Sword and slice it apart. But instead she stalled.
“Did I say Bassoon? I meant trombone.”
“I don’t believe you… “ The RuBoot said. Then its electronic voice stuttered. “I… feel… funny…”
The RuBoot started to shake. Its arms dropped limply. A service hatch on its back opened up. The Android Moto G Eve had used to identify herself had been hacked. Eve had replaced its operating system with special version of iOS. The barcode the robot scanned included a worm that attacked the robot’s operating code. Eve pulled a thermite grenade from her jacket and set a timer. She shoved it deep into the robot’s insides through the service hatch and shut it. The RuBoot shook helplessly as Eve continued on her way.
The RuBoot blew up in a bright fireball. Tiny pieces rained down on the cobblestones.
Cafe patrons sipping coffee and wine burst into applause. Eve turned, briefly bowed, and went on her way. Someone shouted, “See you tonight at Salle Pleyel!”
Eve wasn’t playing bassoon that night. Not at Salle Pleyel or anywhere else. (Though she was a rather fine bassoonist.) She was heading to a gathering of La Résistance Française in a secret wine cellar under the Musee du Louvre. She had been invited personally by Mark Zuckerberg.
In addition to the tactical mistake of banning French, Google had underestimated the French people’s love of Facebook and the power of Zuckerberg’s amazing social media skills. Shortly after France was sold to Google by corrupt officials, tens of millions of its citizens unfriended Google in protest. Facebook had always been a thorn in Google’s side, rivaling Apple as a strategic enemy. Google’s own efforts at social media had always fallen flat. Google Plus had long been a failure, as had Google Wave, Google Social, Google Buddy, Google Friendface, and Google Just-Like-Facebook. Banning Facebook all together was not an option, even after Google had achieved the power to do so in its own territories. Facebook had created a wildly successful version for the dark web, Facebook After Dark, and all the major porn stars had fan pages on it. Banning the dark web would mean banning porn, one of Google’s only strategic advantages over Apple. Besides, if Google took direct action against Facebook, what about WhatsApp and Instagram? Even Larry Page wasn’t crazy enough to attack Instagram. And Zuckerberg had his own nuclear option: with his tech prowess he could quickly retool Facebook into an independent search engine and possibly destroy Google’s ad base. There was, of course, potential danger in a search war for Facebook also, but the threat was enough to force Google to fight Facebook in the streets rather than in cyberspace.
Eve passed on several offers for wine as she moved through the crowds of handsome half-shaved men and sensuous red lipped women who packed the dim cellars preparing for battle. France always had the most attractive revolutionaries. And the wine at these events was always terrific, but Eve was determined to stay sober. Even with her hair hidden and the Cloche pulled down over her forehead, she was recognized. People smiled, patted her warmly on the back and whispered, “Viva la Apple.”
Thanks to Eve’s handy work destroying Google’s Mediterranean fleet, Amazon’s Spanish forces had been able to break across the border into the South of France and capture Barcelona. Arianna Huffington’s irregulars had taken Sicily by sea and were using it to stage a ground campaign into Italy that could reach France by the Riviera coast to Monte Carlo. Meanwhile, Branson’s British troops were about to launch an invasion across the English channel. So the mission of the La Résistance Française was straightforward: to create as much chaos as possible in the heart of France to hamper Google’s military defense as the combined tech forces converged on it. Creating chaos was something the French underground was good at.
Which was a good thing, because most of the rebel discussions focused on symbolic gestures, like draping black flags over the Arc de Triomphe and tearing down the neon sign on the Eiffel Tower. Eve silently dismissed her plans to recruit a squad to attack an anti-aircraft battery as conversations got heated about what color flags would best symbolize the resistance, red or black or both.
She reached Zuck who was at the center of a group of resistance leaders pointing out potential targets on a map with his hook. He spotted Eve and his left hand grabbed her shoulder affectionately as he eyed her with his one eye. “Thank you for coming, Eve.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it.” she said with a smile.
“And thank you for Yahoo. Marissa kicked some ass, didn’t she?”
“That she did.”
“What about the Keynote?”
“I couldn’t get him to cancel it. It starts at 10am in the morning.”
“Probably. I honestly don’t know.”
“An Apple flying car?”
Eve shook her head.
“We’ll just have hope Page is bluffing about the nukes or that Amazon can stop them.”
“What I hear from Branson is that it’s not going well in orbit or on the moon.”
They both smiled in existential amusement that seemed oddly appropriate in France, in the middle of a war, just before a hopeless battle, knowing that nukes would fall on Paris first. Most likely that very next day. Zuckerberg grew wistful. “You know, when the bucks first rolled in after the IPO, I wanted to start a space program. Sandberg talked me out of it. Now I wish had a time machine.”
They went over the plans. Eve was once again impressed with his social networking skills. Rather than argue against the popular symbolic gestures, Zuckerberg figured out how to incorporate them into a coherent military strategy. Destroying the Google neon logo on the Eiffel tower was pointless, but at the top of the tower Google had erected broadcast antennas critical to their military communications system. Sabotaging them prior to Branson’s channel invasion would leave Google in disarray. “I was hoping maybe you could tackle that. My climbing skills aren’t what they used to be.” Zuck said, raising his hook. Eve nodded. “Meanwhile, I’ll take the main forces and try to keep the RuBoots distracted at the Arc de Triomphe.” Zuck pointed out that while there was little military value to draping flags on the Arc de Triomphe, it was centrally located in the city and away from residential areas. Therefore a good place to try to lure Google’s robot suppression forces into a street battle. Snipers with shoulder fired grenade launchers could take positions on top of it while others draped the flags.
“The flags must be black! To show the shame of France!” A handsome half-shaved rebel and cafe barista named Pierre shouted.
“No, they must be red, to show the anger of the French people!” said Emmanuelle, a sensuous red lipped erotic novelist.
“Red and black together! With two black flags and then alternating one red and two more black!” Said a half-shaved sculpture artist named Leon.
The room burst into passionate argument. Amélie, a lovely taxi driver with jet black hair in a pony tail, leaned over to Eve. “This is why Google always defeats us. Because we cannot agree on stupid things.”
There was shoving and for a moment Eve feared a fist fight was about to break out. “NO!” Shouted Zuckerberg over the roar of the crowd. He jumped onto the top of a wine barrel and shook his hook menacingly at the crowd. “No! No! No!”
The room settled as all eyes went to him. Zuckerberg held a long pause and the room fell silent in anticipation. He began to speak slowly, softly, before rising into a triumphant call to arms that echoed against the arched stone ceilings. “We shall drape the Arc de Triomphe with the national flag of France, with its glorious tricolors blue, white and red symbolizing Paris, because after tonight: France… will… be… FREE!”
Huge cheers erupted into shouts of “Viva La France!” Eve smiled at Zuck. She didn’t believe France would be freed that night, at best it faced a long bloody war of attrition. She doubted even Zuck believed it, but it was exactly what the crowd needed to hear. The cheers merged into a loud chorus of La Marseillaise and the beautiful song filled the cellar with joyous camaraderie and hope.
Above and outside, cold reality quickly came crashing down. Weapons were being handed out to the resistance fighters in the Cour Neapoléon between the I. M. Pei designed Louvre Pyramid and the Sully Wing of the 17th Century Palace. Word arrived that hundreds of RuBoots had lined up on the Rue de Rivoli, preparing to attack and burn down the museum while driving the rebel force into the Seine. The only way to save the museum would be to attack the RuBoot’s first.
“We have been betrayed!” Leon said between gritted teeth. “Someone tipped Google off that we were meeting. One of us is a traitor.”
“There is always a traitor.” Amélie whispered to Eve, shaking her head despondently.
“These will save us!” Pierre shouted as he and half-a-dozen half-shaven rebels carried in large shipping boxes. “Combattre le feu par le feu!” Eve felt a dark shutter of apprehension even before Pierre broke open the top of the boxes and started tossing the contents around. Before she could protest, shrink wrapped G-Blades where being scattered into the crowd. Delighted rebels tore them from the boxes and held them up proudly.
Eve looked over to Zuckerberg, who was also concerned. “Zuck, stop them. This will be the end. We can’t trust G-Blades.”
“I know but… I…” Perhaps for the first time in his life, Zuckerberg was at a loss for how to manage a crowd. Laser beams popped up everywhere.
A RuBoot could be heard shouting from an amplified megaphone over the walls of the Richelieu Wing. “Surrender, miserable rebels, our we will burn your filthy museum to the ground!”
“Attack! Attack! Viva La France!” Pierre shouted. The crowd took up the cry and began to move. “No… no…” Zuckerberg stammered, unheard over the shouting masses. Pierre rushed over and thrust a blazing G-Blade into Zuck’s hand and said, “Combattre le feu par le feu!”
“Zuck, no…” Eve pleaded. But Zuckerberg’s eyes were already a fixed on the glow of the seductive laser. “Combattre le feu par le feu,” he whispered to it.
“They are remotely controlled by Google. Google!”
Pierre shook his head. “No, these are blackmarket. They run Linux. They will slice through the RuBoots like a hot knife through seasoned butter!” He pulled Zuckerberg off with the others. Eve was tempted to grab them, but worried that if handed a G-Blade she might fall under its spell.
“Don’t do it!” She shouted. But Zuckerberg, the master of social media, could not resist the energized crowd. There was no turning back.
“Surrender rebels!” The megaphone demanded again.
“Viva La France!” Zuckerberg yelled as the crazed mob surged out of the courtyard like dancers rushing to a Euro disco laser show.
Emmanuelle stood by Eve, disgusted. “Men and their obsessive devotion to glowing phallic symbols.” Eve looked forlornly at crates of perfectly good grenade launchers left behind. She had gone to a lot of trouble to get them shipped in from Afghanistan along with hundreds of iComs to provide a secure communications network. She looked around and saw only about a dozen rebels remaining who had refused the G-Blades. For some reason, they were mostly women and few gay men. Were they less susceptible to evil temptations or just plan smarter? If so, what did that say about Eve who knew herself to be vulnerable to the G-Blade’s seductive power?
Amélie checked over the iComs. “These iComs are more useful in war than the grenade launchers. Are you really from Apple?”
“Yes.” Eve answered.
“Then do something!”
“Money! Apple is rich. How much money do you have?”
“All that is needed if it can make a difference.”
Eve grabbed a fresh iCom and programmed in a credit card number from memory.
“This iCom now has a ten million Euro credit on Apple Pay.”
“That will do.” Amélie reached for it.
Eve held it off. “Tell me what you are thinking.”
“Enough with the amateurs. We need people we can order around for money.”
“Taxi drivers. Paris has the best taxi drivers in the world. They beat the Germans at Marne. They hate Google and will accept Apple Pay.”
“There is a secret passage back in the wine cellar that leads under the Champs-Elysées. We can carry the iComs and the grenade launchers through it to a hidden panel in the dressing rooms of the Le Crazy Horse de Paris. There we will find many women who will do almost anything for money.”
“Dancers.” Amélie said firmly. “I was a dancer at the Crazy Horse before I became a taxi driver. The dancers there are the best in the world. Strong, agile and fast. They know how to use small arms and are afraid of nothing. They will insist on cash but I can work that out with the floor manager.”
Eve nodded and handed her the iCom. “I’ll need receipts.”
To be continued…
If you enjoyed this excerpt from Eve's Hungry, consider checking out the entire novel which is available now at Amazon Kindle.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from Eve's Hungry, consider checking out the entire novel which is available now at Amazon Kindle.