“Welcome Disco Ninjas! I'm Cocoa, the Clubhouse assistant." The speaker addresses a dozen readers seated on fake logs in an alpine lodge conference room. A lit fireplace dances on a screen behind her. The plexi-wood paneled walls boast plastic prey -- bear, deer, tiger and lion heads stare down at the audience.
Cocoa is less attentive. Pudgy with MoreCorp snacks and grumpy from digital contacts, she's distracted even now by pinging devices. Quickly tapping on tek with a mean smile on her thin pink lips and murder in her big blue eyes, the assistant all the while presents the twin standing by her side. "This is Marshmallow. He goes by Marsh.”
Introductions over, Cocoa confides our mission. "Secrecy's key to Discovery, which is why we call y'all Disco Ninjas! Your task is to speed-read and boogie to the disco beat. And we'll be measuring you constantly. Metrics. We collect them. We love them. Why? Because numbers don’t lie!”
Cocoa looks like she lies — all the time. She also looks like she'll strangle us with her fat, capable hands if we ask for help, despite her assistant title. But she maintains her professional cheer, giving Marsh a high-five. A jingle sounds and the admin twins exchange gleeful grins.
Marsh takes over while Cocoa taps on her tek. “So, as you see, we use the hi-5. It’s like hi and five fingers but also like your classic high-five. That's the sensors confirming our caste. You won’t hear a song when you greet. But don’t feel bad. It’s just for clarity. At MoreCorp we have majors, maxis, minis, and micros. Minis give thumbs-ups to get buzz-scanned. That's your caste. Mini.”
Cocoa shoots him a warning look, but he goes on talking, oblivious. “Everything's out in the open here. It's easy. Just use the signals allotted to you. For security. And to ensure the feeling of benign superiority is never threatened in your, well, superiors…”
“Not that anyone's superior,” Cocoa quickly corrects. She seems senior — dare I say superior? — as if training a younger brother. “We’re all equals but transparency demands a caste system. Yay MoreCorp!” She hi-5’s Marsh and the jingle plays again.
Marsh takes back the floor. “So, guys you're gonna love it here. I do. Been working with Cocoa, who — full disclosure — is my little sister. I was born three minutes before her and she’s been beating me ever since.”
This painful confession makes me wince, even though Marsh seems like a jerk, just like his little sister. Their smug soft prettiness, wrapped tight in bright sporty gear, is strangely attractive, making me feel skinny and foreign. This awkward sense is only compounded by the onslaught of incomprehensible instructions provided for the next hour. When I reach for a notebook and pen to record them, Cocoa chides with an amused smile.
“Yeah, ummm, no. Because SecOps. Can’t scribble.” She giggles. “That goes for everything. Don’t share, write down, or repeat! If we detect an infraction, we cut off your access, and kick you off the platforms. That mars your metrics, which impacts contracts, which means you go. We keep score. Remember that, Plus, hush hush. Because ninjas.”
The readers are all tense, relieved it’s not them who drew the fire. But Cocoa's done, apparently, saying only, “Lots more for you to learn! We'll see you back for work after more orientation!” She releases us back to the Team Liaison, Eclair, leading our campus tour. They exchange a musical hi-5 as we stand and file silently behind our guide and out of the Clubhouse.
TLDR does not generate money for MoreCorp; it’s just a necessary aspect of data management, so readers are not stars and are housed in a remote corner in a plain building (albeit with a chummy name). In better neighborhoods, Eclair points out architectural landmarks, the coders' golden domes, the jeweled palaces of sales. She is particularly happy about the art, halting in front of a giant plasti-glass pastry, an éclair dedicated to one of MoreCorp’s first operating systems, her namesake.
“Guess which one’s my favorite,” Eclair jokes about the big candy canes, lollipops, jelly beans, and marshmallows surrounding us. An eager reader offers an unnecessary answer, shouting her name. Eclair glares at him and addresses us. “This art reminds us of humble starts and that life is sweet. Turn dreams into reality! That’s what MoreCorp does and you're along for the ride for a while. Hang on tight and enjoy the treats!”
Unable to take a hint, the eager guy chimes in again, saying, “My kid's named Lolli." He points at a giant lollipop statue for emphasis. "But she’s no sucker, that one. Real smart. She’s my good luck charm for the Lovesport…” He’s got all the gear, tapping his skull to retrieve an image from his brain sensor. The pic's displayable on a pocket screen he wears in a tek-pak on his hip.
Wolf and I exchange small smiles but Eclair's not amused. The liaison puts up her palm to indicate he should shut up. “Nice. I like tykes. But this is a great teaching moment, so let’s focus.” She looks grave but changes her mind. “No, actually, hold that. Let’s get to the Plus Center. You'll love it!”
We walk to the world famous building in the center of campus. The Plus Center, a symbol of MoreCorp transparency and creativity, defies architectural convention. But the building’s design is simple, if structurally bizarre; it’s four cubes jutting out from a central square. A big plus. Major execs all have offices in the top cube, thus they both survey and are seen, symbolically accessible although invisible. Look up. There they are, just out of reach but taking care of biz.
“The two horizontal cubes at the sides,” Eclair explains, “house sporting arenas and spiritual centers. They signify balance. That’s so critical to MoreCorp. We value the third metric. Happiness. Which corporations once ignored. Our founders changed that. Work and play, body and mind, everything under one roof to care for all of you.”
She's emotional when she talks about the building but her moods swing quickly. Standing by the doors, Eclair snaps, “Remember, thumbs up everyone! And eyes peeled! SecOps is everyone’s job so watch for spies, thieves, and sneaks! Micro, mini, maxi, or major, at MoreCorp we're all equally responsible for keeping others out. Look for suspicious activity and report rapidly. If you…”
“See something, say something,” the group finishes the familiar refrain, proof she’s been making this point all morning.
“That’s right guys!” She approves our chorus but pulls a threatening face — like, grim — adding, “We have a great time here. Still, SecOps is super serious. Let's meet some guards.”
Her eyes say she'd shank you in the showers while execs don’t watch from the opaque towers, but her smile is extra as she ushers us forward. We stop at a pod with a bot and a human hidden behind screens. Eclair calls in. “Rice, come on out and say hi to a new crew of Minis."
“Sure!” A young man waves from behind two big screens, barely visible. “You're new! Kool! It’s a ton of fun here, so enjoy the food, dudes!” This wisdom provided, he slides right back behind his screens. It kind of makes me wonder if he's as human as he seemed. Maybe neither guard's a person?
The bot has a screen face that reads: More 4 U + US = MoreCorp. The message changes colors and fonts but remains substantively the same throughout Eclair’s explanation. “For routine exchanges, personal concerns, that kind of thing, bots are your guys. They’re super nice. For threats to our system, we encourage human contact. Communicate those to a person.”
“Threats to self, direct at machine,” Wolf hisses into my ear, managing to sound mechanical. I pinch his arm, hard, focusing on Eclair’s square jaw and large white teeth, her super plus smile and double wide face.
The liaison gets to that issue she meant to address. “Before we meet the Good Guys, let’s talk, real deal.” Unsure what specifically she’s alluding to, we all nod gamely and Eclair supplies details. “The Lovesport, of course!"
Finally, some insight. I can't wait to know more about the big score. That's why Wolf and I crossed the country, why we're traipsing around this corporate playground. For more MoreCorp. To get the grand prize, a Silicon job, the golden ring.
Illumination begins. Eclair breathes deep and speaks. "I advise you to forget about the Lovesport. But keep it in mind too, like in the back of your mind, all the time, so you can be awesome like the smart creatives MoreCorp values. You're not there yet. Don't forget! But you should always wish you were, and wish you were playing. And always be playing. Because that’s work! Play!" She pauses meaningfully. "Q’s? No? Perfect. Let's get to those Good Guys. You’ll feel blessed. They're just so good at what they do!”