A pitch meeting. To think I am actually so proud of something I created, I am ready to sell out and peddle it downtown for a cheap buck. I could cry.
It’s taken all my unimaginable power to achieve the impossible. Yes, the eighteenth floor, which had very recently gotten to the point where there were rumors of an EPA raid, has been transformed. Well, that may be an over-exaggeration, but at least I was able to force my mounds of mess into one or two corners. The great amount of space I had cleared out is now a business space.
For my company, mine, something in this life is finally mine.
Insane Troll Logic, it reads in big letters on a sign I made myself using the digital art tools so readily available to these, oh so creative, mortals of the modern era.
I’m so professional. I impress my damn self.
The room is dark and moody, just perfect for the dramatic reveal when I choose to materialize. Three figures stand visible near the stage, waiting for my cue to start. Most prominent of which is my dear Eggplant. Dashell, whatever his real name is. I have really come to be fond of the young dandy. He is wearing his signature beret, and I notice his accompanying outfit, while retaining his yuppie style, is in much darker hues than he had worn before our acquaintance. I take a moment to remind myself that I have also done a lot of fine work with him personally.
The man next to Eggplant, black, slightly overweight with stylish glasses, is Andre Goulet. He is Eggplant’s coding friend and a very nice guy. I like his sense of whimsy. He said he changes the decorative hubcaps on his wheelchair per the occasion, and I take it as a sign of good faith he came in today with anarchy signs on them.
The snazzy middle-aged woman, rocking the pompadour and the mixed retro style, is Delia Manx. She is a marketing intern who once worked for the marketing exec who had shot down Eggplant’s own app idea but had wanted to break out on her own. Like Andre, I managed to win her over pretty quickly.
Also looming large in the room is the grand screen that makes up the back of the stage for the presentation. I had them set up many slightly smaller monitors for potential investors to Skype/Zoom in on the other side of the room.
They start to arrive. The screens whirring to life, casting, so far, the only light in the room even as their faces remain in shadow. I insisted they be large and looming in the back of the room, darkened like a cabal of sinister observers or those creepy fuckers from Rocky Horror Picture Show. It really helped set the mood I was going for.
Still immaterial, I whisper into the air, and Eggplant, and Eggplant alone, hears me and nods. He winks in my general direction, clicking a button on his phone, and the screen behind him lights, casting the cabal of umbras whose money we are chasing further into shadow.
“Thank you all for joining us here today, and welcome to Fnord Forth!” Eggplant enthuses, his YouTube influencer roots shining through. “The latest release from the innovators here at Insane Troll Logic!”
Andre and Delia prompt data feeds to their screens in lieu of pamphlets, and a banner falls behind them, revealing our insignia. With a bang, several gold apples roll towards the stage. Not mine, big gauche things, bedazzled all to hell and oversized to look pretty for the cameras.
“The latest release? Is this not your first?” one of the shadowy would-be investors asks.
“Exactly!” I exclaim, materializing at last, stepping forward from abstract nothingness to catch one of the faux apples just as it is about to crash into the screen. I wear a goth take on an old-fashioned British imperial look with a black military hussar jacket, gold ribbing and epaulets, paddock boots, and of course, an army-issue saber in a loose scabbard about my trim waist.
I’m in my female form. I make myself just a shay taller than is normal or expected, my skin a tad too pale, and even allow a dark shadow of wings for just a moment. They’ll write my grand entrance off as a well-done effect on the other side of their monitors, but they’ll still wonder.
“Don’t you see how that’s brilliant?” I continue with a squeal of glee, crushing the prop apple for effect. “Can you just imagine the traffic we would get right out of the gate of lemmings rushing to be the first to point out we’ve never released anything else?”
“Your company’s name makes more sense now,” one of our shadowy dons grumble, not entirely disapprovingly, I might add.
“Trolls.” Andre sighs with a smile. “Some would say they are the lifeblood of the internet. It’s time to capitalize on that consumer market.”
I hear murmurs of interest, maybe even approval, and I surge forward, grabbing the momentum by the jugular.
“Fnord Forth! is really very simple. It connects to your social media. You select topics and buzz words you know you can speak passionately about or especially against at length. Fnord Forth! will alert you when a comment, a video, etc., on these topics is getting traction. This is when you strike. Users will get a chance to reply right when it is on the trending uphill, and after that…” I make a boom gesture with my hands.
“If their reply goes viral, they will get allotted Golden Apples in direct proportion to the exposure they garner,” Eggplant says, illustrating the animation we’d already developed of the in-game reward system.
“What can these be spent on?” another umbra asks.
“Accessories for your Daemon,” Delia coos. “The daemon is a fnord’s personal avatar. You get to customize, and that will be associated with your online footprint in relation to Fnord Forth!” She shows her own, made to look like perhaps a slightly younger version of her, but with the addition of black wings as the one thing all the daemons will share.
“So nothing real?” Another umbra asks.
“Not a damn thing.” I smirk. “Just as the vast majority of humanity has been conditioned to expect.”
This elicits some chuckles from the 1% bastards.
“The money comes in here.” Eggplant gestures to Andre.
“The more apples you get, the higher up your personal tree you go,” Andre explains, showing the example of a home screen with a Golden Apple Tree in stages, from one hardly populated at its lowest branches with fruit, to a fully filled tree nearly toppling over. “Those in the highest branch are the Kallisti aka The Fairest.”
“For the Fairest branch,” Delia presses on. “We help them bolster their online presence and are set up with bot followers and branding opportunities in exchange for a percentage of any revenue they bring in.”
“I hate to be a party-pooper,” a strident voice from a back screen calls out, “but isn’t this just amplifying negativity on the net? Rewarding people for being hateful?”
“You’re quick to assume that hatred is what will go viral.” I wink, pulling my sword from its sheath dramatically. “True, it’s common, but it’s also not entirely uncommon for someone pwning some backward thinking monster to go viral instead, or those calling out some of your branded competitors for unfavorable practices. But sure, let’s say for a moment they are using it to bully others. Remember, this app clues people into viral comments they can argue against…why would you think the comments generated by the app would be the exception to this? A fnord or two may bully, but then these kinds of people become enemy number one for the legion of others in the wings. Built-in checks and balances.”
“Allow me to play devil’s advocate,” Delia says, and Eggplant winks at me as she does. “But negativity is profitable. You’re here for marketing, to monetize? What kind of online content do you think is viewed most often? We’ll have options for business entities similar to the concept of promoted tweets on other servers where companies will opt to have their videos and promos targeted simply for the traffic it will produce. All publicity really is good publicity.”
“Imagine with me for a moment,” I say in a breathy plea. “A world where every comment, complaint, video essay, online rant, flame war, YouTuber scandal, political debate, and even those damn hashtag games are all working for you. The mad scramble of society’s digital quest for attention becomes a battle we’ve already won before it even begins. The method is in the madness, my shadowy friends,” I say, slashing the saber through the air, causing Andre to gasp.
In answer, their screens light up, even as Eggplant’s phone pings out of control with offers. I hear Andre and Delia murmur with delight and my eyes go fiery gold, my wings unfurling once more as I feel the chaos in the room rise.
“Well.” I sigh happily. “How do you like them apples?”