“Send this back. The code is all wrong.” Mario said to his virtual assistant. “Send it back to VIP Virch and tell Amber to redo this. I can’t look like this at the Milky Way Gala.”
Mario was used to being disappointed. Despite being one of the richest men in the Metaverse, he still couldn’t get his reality to match the one in his mind. They called him eccentric but he preferred specific. He didn’t want anything wild or out of the ordinary, he just wanted him, Mario Bindini. The Metaverse had been created to make everyone's ideal life a possibility and mine shouldn’t be an exception, he thought to himself. They’d get it back to him before tonight. If not, they’d be exiled from this server.
What was this world coming to? Did he need to buy another one? Or was it possible he was too hasty with one of the last 10? He’d have to meditate on it later. Right now, he was late for a meeting with his VP of Operations, Terry Larenthol. Mario owned the largest world building company in the Metaverse. Celebrities, politicians and land-owners all flocked to his doors for him to build them the perfect paradise. Week-long vacations that only took 15 minutes. It was the most efficient way to reduce burnout and keep the mental health of the masses in check. It was also where the most devious and demented things took place. But that wasn’t for Mario to monitor. He just took their wishes, placed them in his algorithm and code for their dreams were spit out the other side. A seemingly simple task except for the clentiel that he serviced.
The rich and powerful don’t just want to be right, they want to tell you how to be right. Getting the job done correctly the first time doesn’t actually make them happy. It’s when they get to scold someone into getting it right that they truly enjoy their status. It’s what got them to where they are in the first place. A cold heart, large ego and an affinity for condescension are the foundations for a successful life in the corporate world. People like that are never satisfied, so when they conquer one world, they want to dominate another. And that’s where Mario came in.
Mario stood on his hover trolley and slowly drifted to his meeting. He enjoyed being late in a world where it was impossible to do so. Terry also annoyed him to no end. He was a great VP but his anxiety was tiresome. Mario had made Terry rich beyond his wildest dreams but it was never enough. Terry had the ambition of three politicians and an Olympian to boot. Luckily for Mario, Terry was incredibly dumb (which was one of the reasons he promoted him so fast.) It amazed Mario that a person that stupid could actually pull off the duties he was given. Or that he hadn’t caught on to the fact that Mario messed up 1st draft blueprints on purpose. The richer the client, the more simple mistakes he had to correct. His algorithm was never wrong, so he had to make it screw up a little bit. This way, the client's ego was fed by an indignant correction and he didn’t have to work that hard to make it right.
Terry could be seen pacing on the planning platform. Frustrated murmurs started to trickle through Mario’s implant.
“He fucked up the doorknobs. How could he fuck up the doorknobs?”
“I swear I’m going to run this company someday. He’ll never know what hit him.”
But Mario would always know what hit him. Everything in his world was bugged. He knew who was talking shit to who and where they were. It kept him one step ahead of everything. His transportation connected to the platform and he nonchalantly stepped-off, giving a big grin and a goofy wave to Terry.
“Ter! Buddy! How are you? You wanted to see me?” Mario said with a midwestern tone. He always liked to play dumb in front of Terry. Blatantly showing optimistic incompetence furthered Terry’s resentment of him.
“Yes sir! Mr. Donegan’s doorknobs are wrong sir. Your algorithm said that he wanted 412's with the studded tactile response. You…failed to put any on at all sir.”
“Really? Shucks, must’ve gotten away from me. Has the final product already been sent to Mr. Donegan?”
“It has sir. He called himself and was not pleased!” Terry’s avatar was starting to flicker which meant the real Terry was sweating in his cheap VR suit, disrupting the response to his sensors.
“I’ll make sure to give him a call later and apologize. Any other issues?”
“Business has slowed tremendously sir. I’m not sure why but we have 400 new billionaires entering the space but none have contacted us about building their world. Should we be worried?”
No Terry, we shouldn’t be worried, Mario said in his mind while he gave Terry a blank stare, because this happens every year before the MWG. Everyone waits to put their orders in until after the Gala, because they want to make sure what they’re about to spend millions on isn’t last year's flavor. Billionaires are vain and sophisticated copycats whose only validation is from those they despise and vice versa.
“I’m sure it will pick up. Anything else Terry?”
His avatar visibly frustrated, Terry frantically shuffled through his tablet to see what else he could bring to Mario’s attention.
“Umm I had something here…oh, oh there is the matter of your Gala outfit.”
“What about it?”
“The code shop called and had some issues with the style?” Terry said, rereading his tablet. “MARIO, don’t do this! Please! For the sake of my kids' future.”
“You don’t have kids Terry.”
“Yet. I don’t have kids, yet, but this could ruin their future little lives in a big way!” Terry pleaded.
“Why don’t you let me worry about the Gala and you worry about getting those doorknobs taken care of, ok? Or are you the President, CEO and Founder of WorldStar Design? Did that happen? Did I miss something?” Mario chided him sarcastically, his voice taking on a flat, threatening tone. He always finished strong with Terry, like a badly behaved dog. It’s not his fault he’s misbehaved, he just needs someone to let him know who the leader is. The alpha, for lack of better nomenclature.
“No disrespect sir, just trying to look out for the…the company…sir. ”
“Man I love you for that Terry!”Mario's accent going back to that of a Minnesota Shriner, “You’re a swell guy and when it comes promotion time, keep your eyeballs peeled! I’ll see ya later Ter!”
And without another word, Mario turned around and strolled right back to his trolley. He could tell Terry was pleading his case based on the ambient vibration reading his HUD showed but he had it muted and continued his slow jaunt back to his ride. Marios trolley tore off from the platform with a woosh. His exit was always faster than his entrance. He wanted to make sure that Terry knew he could get there on time, but just simply didn’t.
Mario’s day was filled with the monotonous drone of analyzing the customer and strategically misplacing various insignificant objects in their worlds. Purple palm tree leaves here, dinner tables with only spoons there. Each little detail that he missed was an opportunity to satisfy a billionaire subconscious urge and in turn, keep up his reputation as the premiere world-builder on the most elite server in the galaxy.
After switching all the grass to buckthorn on Prince Moabi’s lawn, he checked his watch and realized he hadn’t heard from Amber yet.
“Call Amber, VIP Virch.”
“Callin Amber, VIP Virch, Captain.”
Despite living in the Metaverse for over a hundred years, Mario still enjoyed the thick Scottish accent of Sean Connery. His ear rang twice and someone picked up.
“Thank you for contacting VIP Virch, this is Antonio, how may I help you?”
“Antonio, it’s Mario. Is Amber around by chance?”
“You damn well know she’s here Mario and she already sent your hideous creature over to your assistant. She would like to speak to you to reaffirm the terms though. One moment you animal.” Antonio pinged amber and her voice, clearly irritated, entered his mind.
“Amber! How are you? How’s business been?” Mario asked, ignoring Amber’s anger.
“Mario, I need you to promise me that this won’t come back to me. I never made this for you and had no idea it was even a blueprint.”
“Amber, how long have we known each other?”
“Too long Mario. Please just promise me that. I never did this for you.”
“Scouts honor, Amber.” He held up three fingers and gave a salute. “Look, I’ve only fucked you over, like, 4 times before. I promise this won’t be the 5th.” It was a lie, he’d make sure everyone knew who made his outfit. He wasn’t the kind of man to not credit people for their creations. It was against his iron-clad principles that gave him so much of his success.
“I hope so. I’ve just sent your assistant the code to unlock the delivery. Please don’t make me regre-”
Mario cut the call short as he pulled up his assistant.
“Show me tonight's outfit please.”
A box appeared on his HUD, it started to spin ever so slightly. Picking up speed, the box became a blur and then with a pop, his freshly customized suit stood there in all its glory. Mario stood in awe. A terrifyingly beautiful thing, its stunning audacity gave Mario a chill down his spine. This was it. This was the first perfect thing he had created in the Metaverse. The Zuckerburg Gods had shown favor upon him. Tonight was a night that he’d never forget.
His ride pulled up at exactly 1923. Time didn’t matter, only when he arrived. Mario manually changed the code to drive as slow as possible to the Gala. He hated being the first one there. A bottle of champagne appeared in an ice bucket in the seat next to him. He popped it and took a sip. His dopamine drip increased and his almost negligible nerves felt a little more aloof. A smile crept across his face as he passed worlds he had built himself. Billy Mayer, John James, Tilly Gunderson, Sarah Boeing, Larry Gates, 8O–4R Musk, Etc. The list went on. He didn’t necessarily feel pride, just a sense of domineering. The feeling other billionaires wished they could bottle and hoard for the times they were feeling worthless. Lights started flashing in the windows but he was still a long way from the entrance. The paparazzi were three times as bad here. They wanted to catch those pre-pre-pre pictures about 4 kilometers out. Mario pushed his face against the window and gave them an uncoordinated hello. They’ll love that, he thought, they’ll absolutely eat that up. They think I’m an idiot. A buffoon.
The massive fortress that held the Milky Way Gala loomed ahead of his car. The Greek pillars that have stood against the test of time as a symbol of power and elegance. The brilliantly coded lights that emphasized the majestic fever of the night. The simmering digital air pulsed with the energy of generational wealth. Mario’s moment was near. He felt himself vibrating. Not just his VR suit but his entire being. He would memorize and treasure each look they gave him.
Mario’s transport stopped outside the virtual red carpet. He paused for a moment and remembered his first sale. The Bertoli twins had hired him to create dual worlds personalized to each of them. His algorithm spit out the exact same worlds, down to the code. Mario worked tirelessly creating it for them, overseeing each detail with the precision of an old world horologist.
When he first presented them with his creations, Marios’ pride was exuding out of every virtual pore. And they hated it.
“Can you not see that we’re different people?” Sam said.
“Yeah we’re different.” Bryan followed.
“But my algorithm is never wrong, you both want the same things..because,”
“Because what?!” Bryan yelled. “Because we look the same, you think we’re the same person. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Mario was heartbroken. He loved what he had created and knew his algorithm was perfect. The ridicule was endless for months. They would pile on with each revision he showed them. But one day Sam couldn’t make a meeting. And he started to assess Bryan separately. It wasn’t that they weren’t the same, they were. They just didn’t want to be duplicated. So Mario started tweaking smaller and smaller things to make sure each property was unique. Afterwards he would only show them the code and how different it was, but in reality it was the equivalent of a 2% light bulb density. The deal ended, but Mario’s understanding of the elite had just begun. He presented two virtually identical properties, but his clients' minds were sated with feigned difference. It wasn’t the projects, it was the people’s minds that he needed to curate. And so he did.
Mario stepped out onto the red carpet and ran a hand through his avatar's hair. Paparazzi started snapping pictures but stopped when the lens registered with their optical sensors. The virtual crowd sensed the momentum shift and silenced their programmed replies. The attendees still on the stairs turned around and let their mouths gape at his offensive attire.
On Mario's suit were heads. And not just any heads. Life-size, 3D replica head, of the 100 richest people in the Metaverse. All of them were crying or babbling with sound clips from their complaints during his time serving them. Gates and Gunderson on the shoulders. Musk, Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockhead took his left leg among a number of others. Wesson, Prince Maori, Ellison, Page, O’neal and many more. His entire body was covered with the heads of the rich and famous. Each one of them, babbling nonsense and whimpering on his virtual suit. And on his crotch, the Bertoli brothers, not emitting a sound, but their perfectly-round heads just bouncing together as he walked down the red carpet. Every pitiful, whining sound bite he could conjure up was put to use on his masterpiece. Each billionaire, exposed for what they truly were; entitled adult children, screaming for their toys, for all the Metaverse to see.