(This short story is set in Lauren Beukes' Moxyland universe. It was written for a competition held by Angry Robot books, and was one of the three winning stories. It was published as an extra feature in the UK edition of Moxyland.)


INATEC BIOLOGICA INC.

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

For viewing by legal entities with Corporate Status (CS) A+ or above only.

PLEASE SHRED ALL PHYSICAL COPIES AFTER IMMEDIATE USE in accordance with company policy, 223rd Rev. #464. Failure to observe policy will result in salary suspension, downgrading of employee status, and curtailed network access.

Minutes created by FACILIT4TOR PRO version 4.01 (licensed copy 10876-12).

Copyright © FACILIT4TOR INC. 2019. You may not distribute, copy, print, scan, etc. these minutes or parts thereof without written permission from FACILIT4TOR INC. For detailed legal information, visit facilit4tor.law.

MINUTES OF MEETING #4586 Ref. 32

Dated 27-09-2019

ATTENDING: (5)

List By Corporate Status.

Nwabisa Mthini, Vice president of marketing, Ghost Inc. (subsidiary of Praetorian Global)

Harold Brown, Legal Division: Corporate relations, Inatec Biologica

Jacques du Plessis, Corporate alignment official, Actisponse Private Security (Police Affiliated)

Busisiwe Zono, Liaison, Vukani Media

Jules Dyonashe, Bioinformatics Applications Div, Inatec Biologica

ABSENT: (None)

START TIME: 21.45

— Automatic reading of minutes of previous meeting by FACILIT4TOR PRO is cancelled at 0:07.

— Brown (Inatec) thanks all present for attending.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc) tells Brown (Inatec) to cut the bullshit.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc) reminds all present of the details of the enhanced branding campaign for the soft drink Ghost. Salient points are:

1) Vukani Media, in association with Inatec Biologica, was contracted to enhance the branding of the soft drink Ghost.

2) The enhancement was to include cellular-level biological modification of Ghost Inc.'s brand ambassadors.

3) The modification was to bring the brand ambassadors in line with the Ghost brand, as laid out in the Ghost Inc. Brand Bible Version 5.5 (Doc 564. Not found in archive).

4) The key phrases of the Ghost brand are: Youth, Aspiration, Peergroup Bonding, and Safe (pro-consumption) Creativity. — Mthini (Ghost Inc.) tells Du Plessis (Actisponse) to play Media File #13-586 [not found in archive].

[ SUMMARY OF MEDIA FILE #13-586

OPENING TITLE TEXT: "Broadcasting From A Little Pink Spaceship Orbiting Your Anus, It's The Toby Show!"

Footage cuts to a young man wearing a pair of sunglasses. His head is half-shaved. He is wearing an open BabyStrange jacket with no shirt beneath, leather chaps, and a pair of boxer shorts printed with a black-and-white image of female pudenda.

The man, who appears intoxicated, narrates a clearly fictitious experience he had escaping from a police holding cell. The narration is punctuated as the man swigs from a family-sized bottle of Ghost.

This story is interspersed throughout by video clips of sex scenes recorded on a BabyStrange jacket, in which the young man has coitus with a variety of women of different nationalities, in a variety of positions. Although these clips are not directly related the narration, they are tangentially connected to the action described. For instance, a description of the young man cutting through some prison bars with a metal file is illustrated by close-up footage of a penis being thrust repeatedly between a pair of breasts.

Each shot in some way includes the soft drink Ghost, or Ghost-themed memorabilia, often in an inserted capacity.

At least three participants in the video clips are recognisable social figures, media rated B+ and above. They include 17 year old pop starlet ______, Luxury Travel Presenter ______, and ______, the socialite daughter of ________.

The fictional account of the escape cumulates in the man skewering his captors through their hearts with his own engorged penis, and carrying them around "like a kebab." ]

— Du Plessis (Actisponse) calls up a still frame from Media File #13-586

(Frame 2:41:15) revealing a bioluminescent marker on Toby 's arm. The marker is the corporate logo of Ghost Inc.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) suggests that everyone involved in the branding exercise should be subject to immediate dismissal and disconnect.

— Du Plessis (Actisponse) reports that Media File #13-586 has been downloaded 3,566,143 times in the last 6 months, giving it a pop culture profile of B (Underground – High Popularity).

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) states that, together with other video files from the same source, this media file has irrevocably damaged the brand of the soft drink Ghost.

— Zono (Vukani Media) claims that the man in the footage, Toby, is not, and never was, an officially selected brand ambassador for Ghost, and his actions are not the responsibility of Vukani Media or any of its affiliates.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) says that he doesn't give three shades of shit if Toby is an official brand ambassador or not. He is clearly a by-product of the branding program.

— Brown (Inatec) asks Dyonashe (Inatec) how it is possible that a non brand ambassador could have been subject to cellular level branding.

— SILENCE (17 secs) during which Dyonashe (Inatec) flips through the print-outs in front of him.

— Dyonashe (Inatec) says that he cannot answer fully, as the branding brief contained elements that were classified at level A++. However, the therapies involved did have a contagious component, as specifically requested by Ghost Inc.

— IMPOSSIBLE TO PARSE NEXT SECTION. Multiple persons speaking simultaneously. (23 secs).

— Brown (Inatec) asks if he is correct in understanding that Ghost Inc. and Inatec Biologica have been collaborating on an infectious virus to spread addiction to a soft drink.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) demands silence, as no one in the room has clearance to speculate on company policy.

— Du Plessis (Actisponse) activates a taser-nightstick.

— SILENCE. (4 secs).

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) tells everyone to focus on the matter at hand, which is that Toby is damaging the Ghost brand.

— Du Plessis (Actisponse) offers his company's expertise in swift and discrete removal of individuals.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) explains that Toby has important family connections. Removing him would risk upsetting the monopolistic détente.

— Dyonashe (Inatec) asks if he can offer a solution. Mthini (Ghost Inc.) grants him the floor.

– Dyonashe (Inatec) explains that people who are modified by the Ghost branding are not addicted to Ghost per se, but to specific marker chemicals that are not found in any other drink. If another drink could be made with stronger concentrations of those chemicals, the brand ambassadors would almost certainly switch allegiance.

– Du Plessis (Actisponse) suggests that they mix the marker chemicals with cyanide.

— Dyonashe (Inatec) proposes a new beverage line from Ghost Inc., to lure unsavoury elements away from the brand.

— Zono (Vukani Media) suggests that Ghost Inc. can do better. Toby has a wide and influential reach. If Ghost Inc. creates a new drink, they can play off Toby's bad-boy image and underground fan base to get an immediate consumer following. A whole new brand could be created around Toby.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) says he will propose the idea to his superiors.

— Zono (Vukani Media) suggests the brand names "Ghost – Barbed Wire" or "Ghost – Battery Acid", and requests a buyout fee if either name is used.

— Brown (Inatec) points out that using Toby as a brand icon will upset the cultivated social landscape.

— Mthini (Ghost Inc.) agrees that Toby as a mainstream icon could trigger a new wave of counter-culture, and such waves are notoriously difficult for corporations to steer. A new counter-culture would be extremely damaging for all the companies who are gearing their products towards a conservative and homogenous youth culture.

— Zono (Vukani Media) agrees that it's true, but it will only be damaging for the companies that aren't ready for it, and Ghost Inc., Vukani Media, Actisponse and Inatec will be. As long as this meeting remains confidential, the four companies will be the only ones ready for a youth culture upheaval. They will gear their products towards a cynical, hedonistic, antisocial culture. While others companies fall, they will ride Toby's wave into a bright and glorious future. And if Toby wants to throw Molotov cocktails, they'll be right there to sell them to him.