Lavinia’s outer office, where Riley sat, had a new portrait. Clearly, M was working hard. This one was a young white guy, Jaiyana thought he looked about twenty seven. He sneered out at the viewer.
“Martin, 27,” the label said. “A collegiate tennis player, Martin was concerned that he didn’t have the focus to take his game semi-pro. He didn’t need a sports psychologist, he needed Motivos. Using our app, he’s been able to up his motivation, increase his practice time and power his serve.”
Jaiyana rolled her eyes. Riley was busy letting some guys in suits, weird for Silicon Valley, into Lavinia’s conference room.
She caught Riley’s eye and lifted up a bag. When it was korean beef wrap day in the cafeteria, Jaiyana always brought Riley one.
Jaiyana spread out a picnic Riley’s desk while Riley got seltzer waters for both of them.
“What’s with the picture?” Jaiyana said. “I can’t believe I’m using my PhD to motivate people to play tennis.”
“I know, right?” Riley said. “Martin’s one of my least favorite best selves. But Lavinia wanted him up for her deposition. I think he inspires her.” He was kind of inspiring, in a terrifying kind of way. But Jaiyana could imagine the kind of trust fund frat bro he was supposed to appeal to.
“Maybe he will intimidate those guys,” Jaiyana said, tilting her head toward the conference room. “What are they, lawyers?”
“Yeah,” Riley said, “It’s a deposition. Some kind of intellectual property thing. Lavinia’s always either threatening one or getting hit with one. Silicon Valley, right? I don’t know how we can afford it.”
Someone in the conference room moaned loudly. Jaiyana couldn’t imagine how excited she would have to be to make a sound that loud in a business meeting. But someone, a male-sounding person, had. Riley pretended not to have heard it, so Jaiyana played along.
Jaiyana shrugged, “I don’t know,” she said. She and Riley never entirely fit in with the rest of the company. They weren’t from Silicon Valley and they hadn’t wanted to work in tech, the two of them had just ended up working for Lavinia. It was one of the reasons Jaiyana always wanted to make sure that Riley got their Korean wrap, silly as it was.
“So, how’s the testing looking?” Riley asked. Jaiyana sighed. Since Riley had made her take over running the end-user tests, she’d gotten a new appreciation for how difficult this side of research could be. She really wasn’t trained to be running a massive quality assurance program, but Lavinia trusted her and she was good with data. Besides, it probably looked good on the website to have a female scientist of color with a fancy degree running a major division.
The conference room door shook for a moment, as if someone had rolled a chair back into it.
Riley took another bite, so Jaiyana did too. The only other person who even kind of might get where they were coming from was Professor Day, and Professor Day was so weirdly into Lavinia that she hadn’t been much help when Jaiyana had called her to talk about habit formation. Jaiyana had said the memo was for Motivos, and Professor Day had just seemed distracted. It was not the weirdest thing going on at Motivos, but it was weird.
“The testing is not great,” Jaiyana said. “It’s not easy to get it right, you know? There’s no real way to have a placebo app. So we’re testing Motivos clients on goal setting up against people just using regular goal setting strategies. I’m not sure it’s any more powerful. But M’s redesign is great and her PR is looking better all the time. Maybe by the time it’s released, people will be expecting it to work so it will?”
Riley seemed to know a rhetorical question when they heard one, so they just nodded.
“I know, I’m taking this all really personally,” Jaiyana said. “But I didn’t go into science for this.”
“You work for a startup. You can always go back to academia if it doesn’t work out, can’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Jaiyana said. “I mean, maybe? If Professor Day wanted to help me, that would mean a lot.”
“And she’s not going to help you leave. She loves this place and you’re good for it. And we need the money. I mean, Lavinia doesn’t let me see the books, but we have to be burning money right now while you guys get the app good to go.”
“Yeah.” Jaiyana looked down. There was a loud groan from the conference room. A shadow flicked across the frosted glass.
Riley put a hand on Jaiyana’s shoulder. “If Abigail can make a working app that helps people, Lavinia won’t need you. I mean, your face can still be on the website as the first person Lavinia ever hired. And we will have plenty of money. If Abigail can do half the things Lavinia’s promising people, we will be too rich to care about the other half.”
“That makes sense. I’ve been working on a memo for her on motivation and technology. Maybe when she applies it, there will be some kind of magic secret sauce and it will work?”
Riley lifted their wrap as if in a toast. “Here’s to secret sauce. And hiring geniuses.”
“And the placebo effect.”
There was a delighted scream from the conference room.
It wasn’t like Motivos was a secret or nothing. Jimmy Marks had heard about it through his most respectable friends. His respectable friends knew Nate Brewster and liked the guy. They had so much in common, they both liked money and women. So when Nate Brewster called with a business proposition, he was inclined to meet with the guy. He and Nate and Lavinia, Nate’s business partner at Motivos, had a long, and frankly intimate phone call the week before.
Jimmy brought in his lawyer, too. Lots of guys said it was best to leave the lawyers out of stuff. But Jimmy disagreed. He liked to have his close. Closer than she’d agreed to so far, but he hadn’t given her the company Lexus she wanted and fair’s fair.
“So, you guys like my jet or what?” He smiled, extending his hand to Nate, who shook it.
“We loved it,” Lavinia’s eyes were even bigger than they’d looked on the video conference and she had a sweet smile. She looked good in pink. She wasn’t as hot as Bridget. But she had something.
“You Motivos guys are pretty big. You want one of those?” Jimmy asked. He gave Lavinia the smile that had charmed half of Vegas.
“One day,” Lavinia said. “Yes.”
Nate smiled. “Renting one when I need it is good enough for me.”
“Smart guy,” Jimmy said. “I really get fucked on the upkeep of that thing. But it’s very impressive to send it for people.”
“I was impressed,” Lavinia said. And the girl wasn’t lying. Jimmy could tell. He had a sense for these things. He’d already given them their keys to a comped suite. The really crazy one that all the rap stars liked with the gold and furs. Let ’em see what a real Vegas hotel could do.
Bridget was waiting for them in the conference room. Most of Marks’ Corporate offices were off the strip, but they kept a conference room that showed all of Vegas just for meetings like this. Jimmy had even set the meeting time for 8pm so that the lights of the city would be looking their best.
“Wow,” Lavinia said. She rushed over to look out the window. Jimmy shot a look at Nate. Was he fucking this kid? What was it, like senior prom night or something?
He introduced them to Bridget, whose skirt was too short to be businesslike anyplace but Vegas. She sure was trying for that company Lexus.
As Lavinia’s assistant had asked, there was a full-sized video slot machine set up in the conference room. Nate pulled a USB stick out of his jacket pocket. The back was off of the machine. Jimmy wasn’t really a technical type but Nate seemed to know what he was doing.
A minute or too later the screen rebooted.
“There’s a pink frame around my video poker screen,” Jimmy said.
“That’s how you know the Motivos Technology is loaded into it.”
“So I’ll always be able to tell which machines are yours?”
“I think soon you’ll want all your machines to have my technology.”
She wasn’t wrong. If this lady’s kooky software worked, he’d do that. Jimmy nodded and pulled out a card. “This is the same kinda machine you’re going to find down on the floor,” he said, “and this is the same kind of card. It’s got a thousand bucks on it. You wanna play a hand, Bridge?”
“Can I keep the thousand bucks?” she asked, taking off her jacket.
“You don’t get anything you don’t work for out of me, you know that,” Jimmy said, slapping Bridget on the ass as she leaned over the machine.
Lavinia and Nate gave each other a look. Like the two of them had room to judge. They weren’t any better than him.
Jimmy handed her some wireless headphones. “You use these. I don’t want to hear any of that weird motivational crap.” Bridget put them on without complaint for once.
A half an hour later, Bridget was down eight hundred dollars and she looked relaxed, her eyes zoned out.
“You can see how the Motivos technology is keeping her focused on her task, in this case gambling.”
“How focused is she?” Jimmy asked.
“Focused enough?” Lavinia said. “She’s still gambling.” Jimmy walked up behind Bridget and ran a hand down her back. She made a little whimper. He hadn’t heard her make a noise like that before. He liked it. “Oh, she should be very receptive to that,” Lavinia said.
Bridget made a noise that was something like agreement, but she didn’t look up from the machine. She won five dollars and made a happy squeak as Jimmy slipped his arms around her and started undoing the buttons on her blouse.
“Now this stuff isn’t going to be happening on the floor of my casino is it?” Jimmy’s greedy hands groped at Bridget. Over her shoulder, he could see her playing. He wasn’t sure why, but something about the screen was very soothing. It felt fucking amazing to finally grope Bridget, and he loved watching her play. She was a good poker player, it was just that the machine she was on was rigged. Well, they all were rigged, this one was extra rigged. For testing purposes.
“Oh, this one’s just for you, Jimmy,” Lavinia said. “Remember when we had that long conference call? You told me what you wanted. So we’re giving you what you want.” Lavinia’s voice was soothing too. Everything felt so good. He was going to get what he wanted.
Bridget leaned back for a moment and let her blouse fall to the thick carpet. Jimmy took off her skirt and she stepped out of it, then rubbed her ass against his cock. Her panties were black and lacy, he could feel the texture through his pants.
“You want this, Bridget?” Jimmy asked. His big hands were on her ass now. She made more happy noises. She’d lost another fifty bucks, but she didn’t seem to care. Well, it wasn’t her money, was it?
He slipped his hand between her legs. Fuck yeah, she was ready to go. She won another ten, then was down another thirty. He thought about bending down and licking her pussy while she played and his cock leaped at the idea of pleasuring some bitch while she put money into his machine. Well, the pleasure was what this Motivos thing was all about, right? Making it more rewarding to do things.
Bridget was one card short of a straight and made a frustrated little moan. She was almost out of money. Jimmy growled and bit her shoulder, his eyes never leaving the screen. He was going to fuck her so hard when she was broke.
“We’re going up to our suite for a bit,” Nate said. Jimmy had been so caught up in Bridget’s game he’d forgotten they were there.
“You two have fun. When you’re ready to talk terms, we’ll be waiting.” Lavinia said. And they left.
Jimmy turned back to Bridget. Oh, they’d talk terms all right. Jimmy was going to fuck his lawyer’s brains out, then he was going to tell his assistant to buy her a Lexus, then he’d go upstairs and write Motivos a big check.
Bridget was almost broke, but still so caught up in the game, she was almost drooling. Motivos was looking good to him. He’d be happy to have Motivos technology put into the software of every poker and slot machine he owned.
He slapped Bridget on the ass again. Right then, she lost her last ten dollars and turned around, kissing him and groping his dick. Bridget sure liked Motivos a lot. The investment he was going to make tonight would be a big one, but he should make it back and more so from his machines. If he didn’t, well, he’d have a talk with his less respectable friends. Lavinia and Nate wouldn’t like them at all.