‘It’s over. You can consider this my resignation.’
Facing the panel convened in the spacious office of Mencius Megiddo, the voice of Chief Engineer Leo Esperon sounds hollow. The panel numbers four; the two pale, bespectacled attorneys simply stare from their places in the corners, while the Cryptologic Vizier, one Dr Pyrrhon, leans back pensively in his chair, a ballpoint pen between his teeth. Seated centrally behind his polycarbonate desk, having just returned to Silicon Valley from Hanukkah with the Zuckerbergs, is Megiddo himself. Gesturing with his miniature Julian Assange Plush Doll™ in hand, the CEO and Chairman of La Berinta Enterprises Inc. addresses Esperon:
‘If I were you, compañero, I would just return to my office and find something to do. An event of great significance will be taking place in one hour, and it would be a terrible shame if any of our family were to miss it. The board has been well aware of your growing, uh, ‘qualms’, shall we say, in the last month, and indeed we have been monitoring your communications for much longer. There is no cause for – ’
‘I don’t care what you say, I’m out,’ replies Esperon as he rises to his feet.
‘There is no cause for alarm. We have been preparing for The Happening for a long time now, and trust me, you will want a front seat for it.’
‘We have no idea. When it Happens, we will know.’
‘What the fuck are you talking about?’
‘What we do know, is that it will Happen,’ Dr Pyrrhon interjects helpfully.
Esperon looks back and forth, from one to the other, in bemusement.
‘I’m sorry to disappoint you Mencius, but I just can’t go on like this. I’m going home.’
‘Oh?’ Megiddo tilts his head inquiringly, to which Esperon raises an eyebrow in return.
‘…look out the window!’
At a folding card table placed in a corner of Mrs Megiddo’s garage, Mencius is nearing the conclusion of an interview with what he takes to be a promising candidate for the upsizing of the start-up software company he founded after dropping out of UCLA.
‘So, as I have been saying, it is very important to our operation that anyone who comes to work with us at La Berinta understands our philosophy and that we, uh, see eye to eye, so to speak.’
‘Of course.’ Leo Esperon is fairly certain that he is about to be offered the position, and in any case only needs to fill in a month or so before he can resume work on his doctorate at Berkeley.
‘In your own words, then, what is your understanding of what we do, the whys and wherefores?’
Esperon recalls a snatch of text from the company site he had perused when making
his application: We serve Capital by bringing its force into the realm of pure abstraction, pure information. Everyone knows that human existence has always been governed by the exchange of one signifier for another, a transformational calculus that underwrites history itself. The fulfilment of our mission depends on antagonising, and eventually escaping, those state apparatuses that have always prevented the realization of Capital in a true free market. Our task is thus doubly scientific and political. But history is on OUR SIDE.
‘Well, what I gathered is that you buy and sell information for other parties, and you want to stop government regulations from corrupting capitalism.’
‘Correct. What we are working towards is the union of Being with the free market.’
‘Which has always existed and never existed.’
‘I’ve never been one for semantics, but what matters is that you comprehend our aims and motives, which it seems you do…’
Setting aside Esperon’s resume, which he has been intermittently glancing over throughout, Megiddo takes a hearty draught of Mountain Dew and extends his hand across the table.
‘Welcome aboard, hombre. Your part in our story begins tomorrow. 8am sharp.’
The sun, approaching its zenith, casts a searching glare through the plate glass windows all along the eastern wing of the La Berinta HQ compound. Each tiny surface in Megiddo’s office and along the corridor is saturated with light, white light framing the panoramic view of the desert and shading into amber over the distant sands beyond the Japanese rock garden, the noxious purple mushroom clouds erupting across the landscape more distant still. Every minute fibre in Esperon’s turtleneck shines in the daylight.
He turns back from the terrible view of the sky, to which Megiddo had been pointing. The CEO-Chairman and his associates, moving off, pass in single-file through an incidental door and along the veranda, descending sunbathed steps to a polished table laden with tea party paraphernalia at the edge of the garden, where a cohort of Saudi businessmen and La Berinta employees have already assembled. What follows will be a tightly coordinated and choreographed eroto-economic business meeting and orgy observing all the formalities of Victorian tea party etiquette and Talmudic scholarship. Megiddo lubes up while Dr Pyrrhon provides running commentary and quarterly projections. The pale, bespectacled attorneys simply stare from their places at the corners.
‘Behead those who question the Profit,’ one of the businessmen moans.
Contemplating the scene unfolding beneath the acrid apocalyptic sky, Esperon feels his breath quickening and takes off running down the corridor. There is, he knows, someone – in an office way over at the southern limit of the building – who might unravel the nature of the looming disaster that Megiddo had invoked with such bland concern and which has only just entered, dimly, the horrified imaginings of Esperon himself. His own investigations, in secret, have in recent months merely suggested the deep rotten machinations that he knows in the gristle of his heart to lead back through Megiddo’s labyrinth to that handshake in a Fairfax garage. Those purple clouds…
How had it come to this?
Esperon had been there from the beginning. He had been witness to all as the anarcho-capitalist micro-community at La Berinta emerged and then flourished far beyond Megiddo’s wildest dreams…
Running, Esperon passes by John the scripting consultant and seven others, slumped over and wailing at the cocktail bar. One of them blows his nose with a sound like a trumpet.
The company acquired organs and subdivisions internal and external… the myriad multicoloured standalone La Berinta™ street vendors from Venice Beach to Santa Cruz and beyond… the research facilities manned day and night by software engineers… code monkeys… lab techs… cryptographers… cryptanalysts… logicians… data entry peons… masseuses… baristas… yoga instructors… a recursively defined many-tiered cadre of supervisors to oversee all of the above – and each other…
The man he seeks is a relative newcomer, a secretive but – rumour has it – ingenious architect of cybernetic systems who had faced volatile censure from the head honchos at LBE only a week before. Apparently several dissenting comments bearing his authorship had floated down through the company’s social media currents, and lodged in places chafing and ticklish.
So prodigious was the growth of LBE Inc. that within three years of its founding every last Californian citizen collected a La Berinta pay-check, and all of its corporate competitors had either been subsumed or driven out of business…
The architect’s name is Stanley Cortaran and it is in the direction of this man’s office that Esperon’s thundering footfalls now proceed.
By and by Megiddo had found it prudent to further advance the cause of free market enterprise by adjusting the salaries of his many henchpersons, such that a small reduction in their annual pay enabled the anarchistic micro-community to install clean and efficient healthcare facilities, on-site electricity, water, and gas utilities, and roads… Staples being, due to the operations of the nefarious thumb tack cartels, a rarity in the environs of southern California, this reduction in salary was appended to each citizen’s pay check by means of a small silver thumb tack; this small sacrifice for the progress of free market enterprise became known among the staff as ‘the tacks’…
Stan Cortaran’s office is just beyond the point where the windowed section of the corridor ends, and looking over his shoulder one last time Esperon sees the mushroom clouds have grown and multiplied, thrusting up to meet the dense storm clouds rapidly forming above, closing cancerous black around the still blinding sun. Reaching the door to Cortaran’s office and trying the handle, Esperon enters to find the room empty.
Then, a lilting tune catches his ear. Venturing further into the office, Esperon finds Stanley Cortaran, white-haired and skeletal, seated cross-legged on the floor and winding a bedsheet noose hand over hand. He is whistling ‘Glory, Hallelujah’.
The company and its culture grew ever more ubiquitous, and as the social and technological advances of this living testament to the potential of human creativity (when untrammeled by state bureaucracy) acquired international fame and prestige, it was further agreed that some means of defense from the jealous scheming of International Statism be devised, and thus it was that the fittest among the La Berinta staff were trained and equipped for service in the Retaliatory Munitions entourage (the R-Me).
‘Stan, what are you doing? We have to get out of here!’
‘It’s… all over now, Leo. I would have warned you that it might come to this, but I suspected you were coming to your own conclusions…’
Cortaran laughs, ‘you think Megiddo is behind this? The world is coming to an end, and you think this is all the work of some schmuck from Fairfax with a word processor and a Messiah complex? This goes far, far beyond Mencius, my friend.’
‘Then who is responsible, and why is everyone around here losing their minds?’
‘I will tell you, but only if you can beat me at Mario Kart.’
Many soon grew to dislike the work involved, but all acknowledged that it sure beat the hell out of succumbing once again to the tyranny of government rule, and in any case one could usually avoid the R-Me, as long as one met the tacks.
Incarnated as Yoshi and speeding along Rainbow Road, Esperon hopes, whether he triumphs or fails, that Cortaran will yield and provide some clue to the disaster, some reduction of its scope to this lonely desert, some… hope of salvation for his career and his mortal existence.
‘Get behind me, Stan!’
But even as he discharges a banana peel in the path of Cortaran’s Donkey Kong and approaches the finish line, the answer presents itself to him, rising soundlessly from the neon ribbon of the Rainbow Road and its attendant void, echoing the treachery of those blinding colours shimmering all along the unfolding road, a code eternally returning to its oblivion… revelation under the wheels of a pixellated go-kart.
The exchange of history for a signifier.
The purification of Being in Capital.
Capital speaking itself in a pristine pure syntax.
Capital perpetuating the growth of Capital, and growing to perpetuate its growth.
As bodies fall out of its calculations.
Billions of bodies trembling with hunger in cities and dwellings located nowhere in our calculus.
The world inflamed in its flesh and joints, repressed anguish erupting in the swarming of mobs, the toppling of façades, the seizure of nuclear weapons.
Geotrauma… we cannot eat information.
Entirely unnoticed by the software engineers of ghostly Capital and the fanatics who had unleashed its carnivorous logic.
The screen fades to black and Esperon turns to Cortaran, who has resumed winding his noose.
‘I see now. We really are utterly fucked, aren’t we?’
‘Yes. Not even Megiddo realized that La Berinta was not even really his idea, but was only speaking through him. And what you see outside is its final collapse. La Berinta will take us all with it.’
‘I’m going up to the roof. I want to see it for myself.’
‘I’ll go with you, then. It’s such nice weather out.’
Together they depart and ascend via the stairwell to the open rooftop of the building. From here the desert extends in all directions, its sands and parched bushes growing slowly darker as the eye of the sun is infarcted with cloud, from above and below. Each intermittent atomic blast obscuring the distant figure of San Francisco is louder than the one before. The Earth rends itself with great thrusting Fault-Lines from which ascend terrible deathly Fires that scorch and suffocate the very Air. The Heavens open and from their Bower is loos’d a tremendous hail of burning copper Shekels and glossy, greasy Dollar Bills.
Somewhere below the tea party proceeds and voices rise up from the garden:
‘Oh God, I’m coming!’