I won’t hide my disgust when it comes to Las Vegas; I find it visually offensive. I look away in disgust at all these rubes, shipped in from their flyover states, dressed in their outlet mall clothes and relying on the cloak of night to hide their botched plastic surgery and stretched paychecks, all while acting like fools at the blackjack tables. Pathetic. As if true riches are won and lost in a game of cards and not through generations of thoughtful tax evasion.
But since this is where they choose to hold CES each year, it is a trip I have to do. I’m not happy about it. But I am here because I am a venture capitalist now and an investment opportunity was calling my name—only a far more lucrative one than these people had in mind.
The dry desert air greeted me as I stepped off my plane at the private jet terminal at McCarran. I smoothed out my hoodie, made sure the button-down shirt underneath was especially untucked, and summoned the limo that would take me to the convention center, already planning on having the clothes burned upon my return home.
It was early. Way earlier than when the big press conferences and keynotes would begin, but the convention center was already abuzz with activity. Young people decked to the nines in blazers and blue jeans buzzed about, nervous smiles plastered to their faces that failed spectacularly to hide the hunger in their eyes. They were hunting, prowling for opportunity. Willing to beat down and walk over the opponents in their way. I respected that.
My eyes fell on a stand with approximately 40 LED television screens, all showing the CEO’s beaming, optimistic face. I approached and stood quietly at the back of the small cluster of people. They worked for a small company. “Startups,” I believe they call them, which is very quaint. This one’s mission: to use apps to help sell Teslas to underprivileged children in Africa.
“If you want to see change in this world, it has to start with you. We are e-CHARG. And we are the future,” their CEO beamed.
A woman joined the CEO on the stand. “Thank you all for joining us, e-CHARG CEO Axum Sterling will now be available to answer any questions you might have.”
I waited until most of the crowd dispersed before climbing onto the stand and introducing myself to the five members that remained. “I think e-CHARG is a great opportunity,” I said. “I’d really like to get involved. Where are you guys based?”
Four pairs of eyes looked down. Axum shuffled his feet. “We, uh, actually haven’t really established a space for ourselves yet... Most of us usually just work from home...”
“And where’s home?”
Axum gestured at his team members. “Chad and Noah’s parents live in Oakland, Sarah’s mom has a place in the San Jose... my parents live in Palo Alto. So we’re all pretty close for, like, meetings and stuff.”
Oakland. San Jose. Like you, I had never heard of these cities before either. But I played along.
I shrugged. “I have an office you could use. It’s in San Francisco. We have catered lunches every day and nap rooms for people to use.”
A gob of drool formed at the corner of Axum’s mouth, but he mopped it up with a shirt sleeve before it could roll down his chin. “E-CHARG operations don’t really run before noon and never after three,” he cautioned, defensive. “And I’ve got badminton club on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.”
“Those are the hours I keep myself,” I responded smartly.
“Do you have a gym on-site?”
“Only the best.”
“Beer on tap?”
“Are you pet-friendly?”
“If by pets you mean tigers, then yes.”
“Are shoes required?”
“You got a pool?”
“With a Jacuzzi and sauna.”
“And what about keeping the homeless away? They’re bad for my creativity.”
“We have electric fences.”
Axum and his team’s faces went slack with joy.
“In fact,” I said loudly, checking my Apple Watch that I’d worn specifically for today, “I can show you the space if you’d like, my plane is waiting at the airport. It’ll take less than two hours to get there.”
That was the final straw. The team stuffed their MacBooks into their Herschel backpacks and followed me out of the convention center like sheep, mewling excitedly.
“So, what other startups have you backed?” Axum asked, jogging slightly to keep up with my brisk pace.
I rattled off a few big names that I had the butler prepare for me that morning.
Axum frowned. “I don’t remember seeing your company associated with any of those–”
“That’s because I requested anonymity,” I cut in. “When you get to where I am, the fewer people who know what you’re up to, the better.”
“Ah.” Axum and his team nodded knowingly.
Once everyone was settled and comfortable on the plane and my pilot had stabilized us at a few thousand feet in the air, I asked if anyone cared for a quick lunch.
“What have you got?” one of the developers asked. “Nothing from Juicero, right?” He slapped a high-five with his friend.
I smiled sweetly. The attendant brought me a crystal highball glass with some clear liquid in it.
“This is something I’ve been testing out myself,” I explained. “I think we’re finally at the point where we’ve transcended food, you know? Think about it. We’re not hunter-gatherers anymore. Everything about food takes up valuable time: shopping for it, cooking it, eating it. That’s time better spent doing other things. This drink I’ve created has all the major nutrients, calories and vitamins a body needs during the day, but without the harmful calories and ingredients that cause obesity and trigger allergies. And it has a totally neutral flavor, so you don’t even have to think about it as you drink it.”
I tossed the water (because that’s what was in the glass) down in one gulp and spread my arms. “And that’s all I’ll need for the day. Want to try some?”
“Hell yeah!” Axum said excitedly. “That stuff sounds incredible.”
I stood and poured five fresh glasses from a pitcher (which was more work I’d done for someone other than me in a very long time) and handed them out.
We raised our glasses. “To e-CHARG,” I said.
“To e-CHARG!” chorused the others and downed their glasses. They looked at one another, pleased. “It tastes just like water!” exclaimed one.
And then, without even a change in expression, they slumped down in their seats, out cold from the herbal sleeping draft that I had spiked the water with. You want to knock somebody out good? You head to the tropics for the good shit.
I banged on the stewards’ cabin door. “Hurry up! That draft is only supposed to last an hour.”
Quick as a flash, five servants appeared, carrying needles, tubes and blood bags. They rolled up five sleeves and carefully stuck five needles into five arms. As the scarlet liquid began to fill the bags, I reminded them sharply, “And make sure there’s room in the fridge to store all of the bags. If so much as one drop spoils you’ll replace it yourselves. Move the Armand de Brignac if you have to.”
“Are you sure, Madam?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” I settled back into my seat and closed my eyes. “After we land, drive them back to their hotel. Don’t answer any questions. Burn the car when you’re through.”
“As you wish, Madam.”
I smiled, pleased. This was exactly the kind of blood I was looking for. Young and secluded from the filth of the world, untainted. Fresh. The perfect kind that would help me live forever.
Because dying is for the poor.