by Diana Dark
A story about a woman being manipulated into working for a company that brain washes.
|The smiling faces of two Japanese women stared at Rachel in multitude from the computer screen, almost mocking her finishing product. The advertisement seemed harmless, an ad for a popular candy in Japan, covering the hidden messages well, which she supposed was the point of her job now. As Rachel put the last touches into the project, her first at this new corporation, she wondered absently how morally corrupt she's let herself become in the span of a month. The horror she had felt on the first day was quickly taken over by numbness, but it returned in full force as she stared at the completed project. She had been told that her first project would be something stress-free and easy to introduce her to the applications they use. The instructions given to her had been that her first assignment was supposed to be a quick workup for an online ad that would roll on prepaid websites, "to get her adjusted to the way we like things done," as her new boss had put it. This was something else entirely, and she was afraid she'd become the scapegoat for a project that they weren't entirely confident would work. The holopeople she'd created as part of her portfolio in college had worked perfectly for this assignment, which is probably why she had been hired for it. Creating new holograms would take much longer than the month she'd been given to start her trial run. Focusing on that train of thought instead of the send button on the company file that seemed to pulsate the more she focused on it, Rachel tried to remember how she'd gotten here in the first place, and when she had last felt comfortable with the world.|
Rachel had gone to school for humanities and engineering, but had left with a focus in holographic technology as well, and graduated near the top of her class at MIT. It'd been easy to find a good internship then begin a career at the same company, but recently she'd been recruited by the fastest growing marketing firm, Prescott and Payne's, which had required a move to their newest offices in the heart of Tokyo . This was mostly because they were reportedly changing the playing field; they were not only developing the plans for the companies that hired them, but also creating a lot of the media advertisements themselves. Rachel at first hadn't seriously considered the offer, simply because of the way the company worked in almost complete secrecy. There were rumors of a sort of selling-of-the-soul type of paperwork that had to be signed when hired there, and so far those whom had left the company did so only to retire. The rumors, she thought darkly, were not entirely unfounded after all. She thought back to her first day, and thought that it was almost as if the universe had been warning her, but she'd been too far in her own head to realize it.
On that first day, her morning had started off terrible and had progressively gotten worse before she had even gotten into work. It had all began with the several alarms that she knew she had set the night before, all of which she somehow had managed to sleep through. Next, it had been her car that had driven her to the wrong destination so often she had to finally give up on it and call an insta-taxi, which not only arrived at her house much later than advertised, but also had been stuck in the middle of stop-and-go traffic. "All this technology and yet we still can't avoid traffic," she sighed to herself in the empty vehicle. Once she'd finally made it to the building, Rachel focused on power-walking her way into the towering skyscraper, an hour later than expected. She hoped desperately that she wouldn't get fired on her first day, as Rachel had felt her career would be ruined if she lost such an illustrious job so soon.
She hadn't ended up fired, though her boss had given her a light reprimand before seeming to brush it off her shoulder. This was of course, a way of lulling Rachel into a false sense of security, she recognizes now, as Mrs. Prescott had been quick to pull out the holotablet full of forms Rachel needed to sign before anything could be disclosed. Rachel had fell for Prescott's crinkled brown eyes that she'd took as motherly but were really just mocking, and had signed her freedom of speech away in an airtight Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement. For the rest of her life, she'd be legally bound to never speak a word of most of what she'd be doing or seeing there. She should've known what she was getting into when the elevator doors had opened on the 13th floor for her even when the panel had had no level 13 labeled on it. To this day she still wasn't sure how the elevator always knew to open on that level for her, though she suspected perhaps an internal security system with facial recognition attached. It was strange that no one from any of the other floors ever seemed to get on the elevator at the same time she did either.
When the paperwork was all signed and Mrs. Prescott was smiling down at her in approval, the real information began to come and Rachel realized what she'd done. The reason that the firm had not only become so popular so quickly, but why they did all the work in house and did not hire other companies for post-production became clear. The Prescott & Payne Marketing & Media Firm, PMF for short, was not only creating subliminal messages, but also had found a way to induce the messages rather successfully. The sheer horror Rachel had remembered feeling at the 80% success rate of the subliminal stimuli had been unmatched by any other emotion so far in her life. A sort of numb recollection of the things she'd bought on a sudden craving after watching some TV even just the day before suddenly came into sharp focus. Who knew how many advertisements she's been watching have coerced her into buying a sugary snack or a new pair of shoes.
"How it works," Mrs. Prescott had continued normally, bringing Rachel back out of her head "is quite simple, really. We've paired up with the Vita-Chip's company and they get a percentage take on the initial payoff. When our advertisement is seen or heard by the user, it causes a reactionary spike of dopamine to be given to the user via the Vita-Chip installed in them. The hit is momentary and only ever during the split second of subliminal messaging we've added into the ad. It's completely harmless in the long run but the economy has really never been better worldwide. We don't just do companies either now, we've been working on presidential campaigns with some countries too. Those are still in trial runs but it's looking really good so far." The Vita-Chip idea was a smart one, no one would suspect that the chip now financed by the government would be causing this. Vita-Chip was created by a team of scientists in Eastern Europe a decade back originally to help solve issues with vitamin deficiency, but has now been manipulated by their company to sell various chips that, for certain price levels, will do certain jobs. The highest priced one will help maintain any mental or physical illness programmed into it, connect to a bank account for easy access payment plans, as well as turn into a portable Wi-Fi spot. It's also adaptable to work with the Eye-Port installation so that internet access is available literally with a blink of an eye. Most importantly to note is that, for pharmaceuticals and doctors sake, Vita-Chip does not cure, simply maintain. Most people have gotten the one installed for at least the Wi-Fi at this point, but the bank account option has gotten more and more popular as generations get older.
Coming back to herself, Rachel stares at the screen in front of her, at the split second in the video where the audio and video announce "Vote Haruka Watanabe 2115." Watanabe was not a bad candidate, but she was boring and had been receiving lackluster results with polling, which they wanted to change. She was fiscally conservative and had an overall neutral approach to office while most of her competitors had campaigns that had aligned them in certain lights, which made it hard for her campaign to get attention. She wasn't horrible for the position, but Rachel didn't believe her to be the best fit, as Ichigo Tamago seemed to be a better fit for the way Japan is growing. At the height of the technological revolution, Japan needed someone to properly balance finance with growth, which Tamago had focused on throughout her campaign. Rachel's hand hovers over the "X" marking the deletion of all her hard work on the hololens surrounding her. It would be all too easy to just walk away from this now, she'd always been rather liberal in beliefs, wanting to believe in the people and their freedom to make the right decisions.
Pressing that button would save that piece of her and not pressing it would turn her into something unknowable. It would be brave of her, to say no, delete the systems, maybe even destroy all of the company files and make sure this never happened again. But she was not brave. And the world was at a better equilibrium than ever before. Her hand moves and instead settles on the "Save & Send" button and she closes her eyes in defeat as she taps once lightly. Rachel shuts off the hololens and turns away to stare off into the city skyline shining brightly with the neon lights every major city is required to have. She wonders if soon there'll be someone out there who will suddenly have a change of heart because of what she'd done. Because of what she had created and put out into the world, from her neutral, earth toned office.