fo1test“This place has it all,” Jerry started to say, and then the most beautiful girl Ico had ever seen began walking toward them. The first things he noticed were her hips, hammocked by a poly miniskirt, swaying as she moved. The motion was soft, slight, like a baby rocking its cradle.

Her belly was exposed, pierced by a blinking trinket. He didn’t want to stare too long but was pretty sure it was the flux capacitor from a 1981 DeLorean time machine. He almost swallowed his tongue.

Her chest and shoulders were shaped so perfect they belonged in a Star Trek uniform, but it was her face that finally hooked and reeled his heart. Just plain enough to be exotic. She had long, dark hair, Katnissed out to one side, but with no braid. To save time she’d simply chip-clipped the strands into a tail.

Little silver charms dangled below her ears. A pair of sonic screwdrivers. Green tips glowing. Too chic for words.

On her neck, to the opposite side, he saw the edge of a round tattoo. He was dying to know what it was, sure it’d seal his craving, but there was no way to discreetly lunge around for a look.

As she passed, her eyes smacked flush into his. Ico had long since stopped breathing. He was sucking in his gut, even though he really didn’t need to. He just figured that was the polite thing to do these days.

She blinked, slo-mo, then like mirrored Tesla coils, he thought he saw his own reflection.

And quickly, she was gone. Turned a corner, and Jerry had his hand on his shoulder.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet, Ico.”

“Who? Who was that?”

Jerry was pulling him on the tour, through the room, toward doors at the end.

“That’s just Trina. Works over in Bioscan.”

Ico was blunt. “Am I also going to work over in Bioscan? May I?”

“No. Forget Trina. You can’t handle Trina. She’s undateable.”

“Undateable how?”

“The normal way, I guess.”

“Out of my league or whatever?” As Ico asked it, he realized he probably knew the answer. There’s no way a girl like her, with all her options, would go for a guy like him: Plain. Not large. Light brown hair. Good with theoretical AI code.

Marginally smart.

No tattoos, striking features, or muscles. That was about the end of his “plus” list. And, certainly not if she knew the real truth about how he got here.

“Not out of your league, kid, more undateable like she doesn’t ever date. She just chooses whatever guy she wants, uses them for whatever she feels like, crushes their spirit, devours their very soul, throws them aside, and then moves on. Sometimes over the course of a single fifteen-minute coffee break.”

“How calculating.”

“She’s a lot like guys that way.”

“Not all guys.”

“Can’t say we don’t respect her gameplay though.”

Ico turned to Jerry as they walked across an open courtyard. Grass, volleyball, a hoops court, skydiving freefall gym, the works. There was even a water slide with loops that defied the suggestions of gravity.

“She ever play you, Jerry?”

The older guy smiled. “Look, Ico, there are a hundred girls like Trina here, and I don’t mean the aggressive part or the predator part. Beautiful, smart, driven, fun. Melon aggressively recruits the best nerds that money can buy.”

Ico scanned the courtyard. Everyone was within a few years of them. Kind of dorky, kind of fit, but each looked 100% interesting. Like they knew things you didn’t know, and used them to do things the establishment could never imagine.

Jerry continued, “That’s why we went after you. Don’t get your panties all stretched out the first five minutes over the first twenty-one-year-old PhD you stumble across.”

Ico nodded, then waved around. “It looks a lot like how I remember them saying Google’s campus was, back in the day.”

Jerry snorted. “Google was full of twats. They couldn’t program a one-button coffeemaker.”


“Ooh ooh, a search engine? Puhleeez. Those morons wouldn’t be able to put a cap back on a gluestick.”


“Doesn’t matter. I think the plan is now to rewrite the entire web anyway. Not sure if that’s before or after sending a brain-erase function to everyone’s cell? I get the timelines confused. There’s always last-minute changes. Get used to that around here.”

“Is it true, then?” Ico asked directly.


“World domination? Enslaving the race? A final solution for the virus known as the human scourge?”

Jerry didn’t say a thing.

“So? That’s all just kind of a catch phrase, right? Clever marketing to announce something new? Like innovative tech? A killer phone app?”

The HR rep was staring at him blankly. Like he was offended. “We didn’t lie in the press release. Of course it’s all true. Every bit. Can’t wait, either. Now that we’ve got you, I think we can close the deal a lot sooner.”

Coming soon to a bookstore near you…