The very attractive receptionist handed Jon Derch a bag with the Rancor-Tech logo on it. Bright red and all seeing.
“Here is your ID, Rancor-Tech issue phone and hold out your left fore arm.” She held out her hand suggesting he should place his fore arm in it.
“Why do I need to do that?” Jon asked. She smiled and raised a gun with a large needle as the barrel.
“Well Jon you are going to need to have your L tracker installed in the event of a mass-one event. Either way it only hurts a bit.” Jon complied, the needle slid beneath his arm and deposited the tracker. It hurt a lot but he kept his composure. As she pulled the gun away a small amount of gel tinted pink with his own blood was left behind. The wound sealed and was gone within seconds. Jon stared dumbfounded. She smiled.
“Excellent! Now that the unpleasantnesses are done welcome to Rancor-Tech. Say; tell me why you decided joining our little Silicon Valley endeavor?” Mr. Torpin asked flashing bright white teeth at him. Jon rubbed his arm and thought of his small overly expensive apartment, the recent eviction and the subsequent three days of homelessness.
“Honestly, I am unsure what you guys do but it seemed the job had low requirements and high pay. Your benefit package is great! I am just thankful you are giving me the chance to work.” Jon smiled hoping his candor would not cost him.
Mr. Torpin smiled and produced an apple seemingly from no where and tossed it to Jon. “I like you Jon. Honesty is what we need here. An honest mind is the only thing between us being an excellent company and all of us going to work for Google.” Google rolled out of him with utter disdain and contempt.
“Well let me tell you” Torpin said straitening his tie. “Here at Rancor-Tech we social engineer, but we do it with an effectiveness and laser focus on anger and nagging outrage. See there is this book the Bible. It says that anger does not bring about the righteousness God desires. And it’s right! Frankly; I think God is dead and we have his husk here in the building but I ramble. Anyways; follow me and I will show you.”
Torpin motioned for Jon to follow him down a long hallway leading to large red double doors. “Social engineering?” Jon asked.
“Of course” Torpin Exclaimed! “See we focus solely on anger knowing that with anger abounding in society there is a more selfish tendency and selfishness leads to people spending money on themselves and that means profits.” Torping spun about as if he were painting the picture in the air. Jon took a bite of the apple it was so sweet. Mr. Torping continued “See we aren’t aiming for out right anger. Like the kind a two year old might have. No! We want small irritating anger, nagging outrage we like to call it. The kind that slowly poisons the soul and lets dreams die but leaves them unburied.”
Jon swallowed hard. “That seems pretty terrible Mr. Torpin.” Mr. Torpin turned about walking backwards. “It is! We have an answer for that though, we regulate it, and that is where our employees come in. Come Come. Welcome to the Beatle Room. So named for our constant playing of the entire Beatles discography.”
The room was huge consisting of 6 rings of desks all with identical computers. Each desk faced towards the center of the room where hovered something terrible. It looked to be an apple about 8 foot by 8 foot. The skin of the apple seemed to be a thick almost candy coating of amber and gold. The apple had openings to the inside maybe a third of it’s surface was missing. The flesh of the apple looked just like that flesh, gore, meat, layers were visible but you could only see so far into it. The inner part of the horrifying apple was pitch black. About it’s surface bees crawled about entering and exiting the apple. Jon could not help but feel awe, fear and utter confusion at what he was seeing.
Mr. Torpin sighed contentedly “There it is the center of our operation. Try not to stare too long.” Mr. Torpin snapped his fingers and got Jon’s attention. Jon turned to him and raised his apple to this mouth right before he bit he saw that the tiny apple now looked like a miniature version of the foul and captivating apple in his hand. Jon startled dropped the apple. In the time that it fell from his hand the apple appeared to simply be the red apple he had been handed in the first place. Mr. Torpin whooped “I love new guys! You will get used to it but man I got you good.” Jon picked up the apple “What happened?”
Mr. Torpin smiled and motioned that he follow “You got the first taste of our secret sauce. The Foul Apple as we lovingly refer to it is complicated at our basest understanding and other worldly at best. It is from here, as far as we can tell crafted of the meat of varying animals some human thrown in there. What is most interesting is the outer shell and the center. The gold and amber coating is something that we have never seen and the bees all originate from whatever that dark center is. As far as we can tell ingesting anything but the smallest amount of the shell or meat is poisonous and if you don’t die you are in for the most painful acid trip. In the early days we had one man that had survived but he was barely coherent. HA! Thats just like us humans. We don’t understand a thing so our first instinct is to taste it and see what happens.”
Jon felt nervous but asked “I am so thankful for the job but what is it? What does this have to do with social engineering and marketing?” Mr. Torpin smiled “Asking the obvious is exactly why you were hired! See something about our lady The Foul Apple effects the human mind. Giving us insight but in the worst way. Kind of like when you fight with your wife and you know exactly what buttons to push to really burn her. The Foul Apple helps us have that kind of insight into groups of people without having to be married to the goup. It also removes the inhibitions against using those insights for social gains. Some of the people in this room are the worst people. They do make bank though. We have even seen it adjust the body language of an individual to cause nagging outrage.”
Jon stared wide eyed at what he was seeing desks in six rigs around this Foul Apple. Each ring full of people that have chosen to allow themselves changed for the worse for monetary gain. Jon thought “maybe he as not so fortunate… nagging outrage?” He asked “What do you mean nagging outrage?” Mr. Torpin smiled but this time there was a sharpness to his words “Nagging outrage is the goal dear boy. We want to control the outrage of the human race. Not to hot and not too cold just enough to keep the individual from understand another. Just enough to keep others from being content or thankful. If we can give them a thorn in the side or a stab to the mind then we have done our job.”
Jon ringed his hands “Mr. Torpin I don’t know if I am comfortable with this it seems immoral also that apple thing scares me.” Mr. Torpin for the first time in the conversation raise his hands and looked concerned “That is great Jon, that is just great we need people like you here. What we do does have its;” raising his finger to make air quotes “questionable results.” Mr. Torpin brought his hands together “lets do this see the rest of the operation and then we can make a decision. Fair?” Jon thought of his few nights on the street “Okay how about this tell me how it plays out outside of this place.”
Mr. Torpin took his previous demeanor and smiled “of course! Lets take iOS vs Android. We used our considerable resources and insights to sow into the populous two factions. Causing people to identify with their phone preference and then discuss it with their friends. So far so good right! Then comes in The Foul Apple. Our employees in the outer most rings begin to simply gather data from the Internet about what people are saying online about the different smart phone options. They deliver that data to the next inner most ring gaining insights and influence from the apple. Each ring is given a timer and allowed to stare into the apple for designated times in an interval per ring. The closer you are to the apple the longer you are allowed to stare into it and the more frequently. With out communicating between employees and rings we bring our research and notes towards the center till the 6th inner ring comes up with a plan. Each member of the six compiles a plan for causing our nagging outrage. Here is the thing! Always and with out fail since we started using The Foul Apple the plans have been the same. Then the 6 use insight from The Foul Apple and make comments on websites and social media. A comment on facebook turns into the inspiration for someone to write the next hit piece. A spam email to joe blow births the next flame war on reddit. Thusly the great iOS vs Android debate is born. The kicker more phones are sold because everyone has the nagging outrage and the only way to shake it is to spend that dough. ”
Jon stood amazed and terrified but blurted out “You could use it for good!” Mr. Torpin frowned “yeah we could but there is little to no profit in good feelings unfortunately. As you can imagine with the iOS and Android debate as a template you can probably see our hand in everything from politics, racism, social justice, even the state of Christianity.”
Jon felt his countenance fall “Mr. Torpin you have been so generous to me but this is a lot to take in. I, I like to think that I could do this. That I could help you accomplish your goals but spreading anger for profit? If I am honest, which is what you say you like about me, it pricks my conscious. You have an amazing operation. Honestly after you describing how you work I can see your hands in so many things. I don’t think I could profit from division.” Just then an older woman walked up to Mr. Torpin from the third circle. She whispered in his ear and he nodded as she spoke. Jon could hear “I am the walrus” being played softly over the loud speakers.
Mr. Torpin stepped away from her and turned to Jon “You have the job Jon. You can put your life back together and be compensated well.” Jon started to shake his head “No, I just don’t think I can…” The breath was knocked out of his lungs as Mr. Torpin thrust a palm into his chest. He was pushed back by the force all the way from the first ring to the fourth. Two employees picked him up off the floor. Jon tried to fight back but his breath had not returned to him. They drug him towards the center of the room each ring two other employees would pass him over the barrier of the next ring. Two employees from the sixth ring threw him into the center with The Foul Apple directly above. Mr. Torpin yelled from the outer most ring “Your honesty is our best policy” as the bees descended and the re-frame sounded over the speakers “goo, goo, g’joob”
This is a story cube story
Also published on Medium.