|Jeff Bezos by Steve Jurvetson, (Wiki.)|
The Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.
The great thing about the tech industry was the corporate culture.
Bibbles Inc., a two month-old start-up in the child-sharing industry, had everything from day-care, a spa, a gym, even a basketball court on the widely-treed grassy swath out behind the building. They’d raised ten million in the first round and twenty-five in the second.
The cafeteria was served by an award-winning chef with a crew of a dozen assistants. Meals were free, and the monthly staff meetings were a lot of fun.
It was a real opportunity for staff to bond with each other, and the company.
It was possible to take all this a little too far, of course—
For example, Thursdays and the newest mad wrinkle in internal relations.
That would be the Naked Lunch. A good number had considered quitting. Some wanted to stay home and call in sick, some seriously considered calling their attorneys. Some threatened to boycott, or eat their lunch out of a paper bag at their desks or just go outside and sit in their cars for an hour or so.
Some would probably do it, but at least some of their jobs were well-paid and the future-promised benefits good.
Working conditions not too bad for what was known to be a pretty frenetic industry.
More than anything, they wanted to see what happened next.
“Oh, look, here comes Seth.” It was, the moment they had all been waiting for. “Holy, shit.”
Tom choked on his blueberry Slurpee-Latte. A good line hit him.
“Jeebus. I can see why he’s CEO.”
It was true, their shaven-headed fearless leader was hung like a Shetland pony. Maybe even the full-grown animal.
“…and why I’m still a junior accountant, in other words.”
The guy was completely hairless. While not a body-builder, he didn’t look fat either. He wasn’t skinny—more like Ghandi with a couple of good meals in him. He waved like the Queen from her golden carriage, upper arm straight out and the forearm in the vertical position.
Catching one of those burning, coal-black eyes for a tenth of a second, Tom gave a firm but polite nod. He turned away, an expression of personal autonomy—right out of Seth’s book, not that it had done him much good so far.
Hell, this ain’t my idea—but I sort of wish it was.
“Hey, you said it, buddy, not me.” Tom was fairly confident in his six and a half inches, although the fact that he’d shaved the old pubes a couple of weeks previously had been hanging over him.
On the other hand, at least he had a pretty good thatch on his chest.
The short but luxuriant growth around the bag-pipes he now sported was some consolation, as some of the older male executives had pubes that sort of overshadowed, in pepper-and-salt tones, their more important personal bits.
“Oh-my-God. Oh, my God.” Poor old Sluice sort of froze, looking out the corner of one eye.
Mouth open, Tom took a sidelong glance.
Stacey—from Public Relations.
Her breasts were just as perky as they had often speculated. Her puss was spit-shined, it had been shaved that close, or recently….now there was a thought. Her chin was up and she was ignoring the stares.
No doubt. And yet she was here, too.
Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all.
“Psst. Oh, fuck, here’s Robert.” Robert Pyle, their vice-president of sales and marketing.
Which really ought to have been capitalized, thought Tom.
Fuck, with that guy, it really ought to be All CAPS.
VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING…!!!!!
He didn’t seem particularly well-endowed, but the ponderous big belly and the flaming face and neck did lend itself to a certain backwards-leaning dignity. Being naked meant he couldn’t wear the Armani…nor the shoes, which he made a big point of talking about. All the fricking time.
They said he was competent, though, and in fact pre-orders of their so-far, practically non-existent product, were going through the roof.
Seth was known to hand-pick the menu on a day-by-day basis, spending a bit of time on Sunday mornings with the paper and the lifestyle-slash-cooking section of the paper and figuring it out a week in advance. He must have been having an off day. Today it was Chicken-a-la-King, scalloped potatoes, cheeses, pickles, artichoke hearts, and according to their server—one of a hundred unpaid interns, fruit cocktail or rice pudding later on.
The salad was all right, the soup not so good according to Sluice.
“Ah, fuck. It’s God-damned Murray. Is he headed this way?”
“Ah, yes, I would say so.” Murray, their immediate supervisor and a royal pain in the neck, was indeed headed straight for them.
Eyebrow-less, Seth was ascending the podium, the stage, perhaps even going straight to heaven on a beam of light or something.
Murray sat down, his eyes cloudy and troubled. He would probably be leaving a wet spot when it was all said and done…he’d already brought up the subject of disinfectants, labour and other costs, privately and behind the scenes.
Thoughts of a big titter running through the audience passed through Tom's mind, but oh, well.
Seth beamed out over the crowd.
“Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, ah, for being here today. I know things may be hard for some of you—” A brief patter of applause and laughter went through the eighteen hundred or so assembled employees.
“…but I will keep this short.” (More chuckles. The guy really was like that.)
Seth couldn’t avoid a bad pun if it killed him.
The red-head from R & D was staring at Tom from three tables over. He gave her an impulsive wink, his face reddening when he realized Ronnie, the gay guy from the training group was sitting there at table or row number two—he was simpering away like crazy, and he gave Tom a quick little finger-waggle type of wave before turning back to listen to his boss.
The really, really big boss…
Seth was beaming out over the crowd as the house lights came down and the screen lit up behind him.
Apparently there was going to be some kind of announcement.
His strong need for adulation satisfied, Seth had launched into his speech.
“Self-power serves the progressive expansion of truth.”
People stood up and screamed.
It was always this way.
“Intuition differentiates into infinite abstract beauty.”
“Yay!” His acolytes roared, Tom and Sluice among them.
They were up on their feet.
It was always like this—Seth was just that kind of a guy.
What in the hell that was about, no one could ever clearly explain except with words like charisma and Nietzsche. And shit like that.
“Death is inherent in karmic self-knowledge.” The room went kind of wild, why, Tom couldn’t exactly say, but one had to admit it was kind of funny.
Those liquid black eyes were suddenly fixated upon him and his heart sank.
“So tell me…Thomas. What is the one great thing about our product.”
It was de rigueur to stand up and be seen at times like this. Tom had sympathized with others centred-out and put on the spot, although he’d never experienced it himself.
Yeah, they all fucking sat down now, didn’t they—
Well, good for them.
Now was his chance.
“Well. The other day, I was driving down the road. There was this young guy. He was maybe mid-twenties, thirty years old, maybe. And he had these six or seven kids out on the road—it was like a circle or a crescent, being a bit of a subdivision, I guess. He was tossing a ball to a couple of white kids—these were maybe his own boys, and there were a couple of black kids, an Asian kid. There were a couple of little girls. I couldn’t see everything, and yet I had this sort of epiphany at the time. And I sort of envied that guy.” Tom had made some choices.
Those choices led him into certain paths—and ruled out some others.
The boss listened intently, or gave the illusion of doing so.
The room was very quiet, as Seth’s eyes shone. This would be the world’s first trillion-dollar start-up with people like this on the job.
“And how did that make you feel, Tom?”
Tom heaved a deep sigh.
“Okay. Bearing in mind that I’m only twenty-four.”
“…but it sort of occurred to me that I have in fact made choices. One of which was to come here—”
The room was very quiet as Seth nodded.
“I’ve never been married. I may never be married—or have an apartment, or live in a house, for all we know…I may never own a car, or have a wife or kids of my own.”
“We sacrifice much to be here with you, sir—”
“Never call me sir.”
Tom plowed onwards, relentless.
“But the way I got it figured, uh, Seth.”
“We need to figure out how someone can really trust someone else to borrow their kid for half an hour—oh, I know for a fact that parents will be grateful. Jesus, H. Christ, I know they will. But there’s that whole issue of trust. It’s not all online persona, we know that, sir. So many fake accounts, so many fake names and pictures. But it goes even, I don’t know, maybe a little deeper than that.”
“Hmn, I’d say you’ve, ah, definitely grasped our greatest challenge here, Tom. But I sense there’s more.”
“Yes, Seth. There is. For one. This whole thing actually works better for dogs. That whole micropayment thing will kick in, don’t you worry about that, sir. There’s going to be an abundance of demand, we all believe that. Why, just the other day, I had a friend’s dog sitting on my lap, and it was surprising how satisfying it was, to however momentarily, to have the affection of what was a pretty nice little dog, sitting on my lap. Dogs, are uncritical—I think that is the key. That goes a hundred times for a kid. Think of how warm and heavy that would be sitting in your lap—and our customers are going to go nuts.” It really spoke to something deep inside a person in his words.
Seth nodded. He turned and whispered to someone, Nathalie, his personal secretary, a bit wide in the hips but definitely attractive in the Earth-Mother way that Seth was said to favour.
“So, what are you saying, Tom.” Those sick-basterd eyes were all over him.
“What I’m saying, sir, is that I feel that self-power exists as a panoply, and an abundance of mysterious consequences. But, honestly, uh, sir,—I, uh, really really think that this could work.” Fifty cents for a half-hour with someone else’s dog—people would literally enjoy picking up the shit, putting it in a bag, and being slobbered over.
It really didn’t mean anything.
“Yes, and more importantly, I sort have to ask who might like to come over to my house and cook my dinner tonight—I think we really need to think about that, sir, not just as a company, but as individuals.” And how much that might sort of be worth to them.
Music came up from somewhere and drowned out any further feedback.
The same held true for kids, of course, but the risks for app-users were greater in Tom’s opinion.
Seth nodded, and a few people clapped politely, and Tom reckoned this was either grounds for dismissal, or he had just made Vice-President in Charge of Philosophical Musings, or SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
Now was the time to bob one’s head and sit down—
Either way, it was good with him. At eighty hours a week, minimum wage didn’t exactly amount to a hill of beans.
Not in this town.
He hated Seth in that moment, as two big balls of sweat rolled down his ribcage.
Other than that, the free lunch was pretty good, and the Merlot was competent enough.
It was a job, and nothing more.
Editors Note: fuck off, you son of a bitch.