hair, dry-ish, check.
“Copying & Pasting From StackOverflow” T-shirt, sniff, meh, clean enough, check.
jeans, badly in need of hemming but they’ll make it another day, check.
black zip hoodie, check.
OSCon day pass, check.
shoes, oh gosh, so many to choose from, she thinks, surveying her two pairs of beat-up con sneakers. do i go with light grey or dark grey? dark grey. twice in a row. living dangerously. check.
she sizes herself up in the hotel bathroom’s mirror. a short, wide-eyed, but slightly glum young woman, face framed by large wireframe glasses and light brown hair, looks back at her. something’s not quite right.
eep! can’t go out like that!
Mel snaps her fingers and her two-inch purple horns disappear.
there’s lust, yes, it’s like a fog permeating the con floor, there’s ample pride, greed, and a fair bit of wrath, most of it aimed at the guy with the Q&A mic, but it’s two days in and she’s nearly as susceptible to the ascending tide of sloth as the mortals. she could also go for some gluttony, because she forgot to eat lunch again.
there’s an invite in her tote bag to some industry thing with tapas and an open bar, but she really never feels comfortable at those things. too loud. too many people.
just thinking about it makes Mel want to snap the speaker’s neck, but even in this broth of venial sins, she’s not sure the guy’s soul would go the right direction. finally the windbag wraps up and the moderator calls time before anyone else can show off.
she’s outta here. to the vendor booths, looking for some bigcorp handing out popcorn or bags of branded M&Ms.
then she feels it. someone’s as thirsty for her as she’s hungry for carbs. not far. maybe from the direction of that venture-backed adtech company with the huge booth. the one with the CTO that loves Mongo. it’s web scale.
before she even gets close, someone walks out from behind their table to meet her. she tries to remember how to smile. she can feel the thirst getting closer, and oh gosh, it’s coming from another woman.
“Hello and good afternoon,” the booth babe purrs. her hair is long, dark, and sleek, her dress is short, dark, and sleek, her lips are a deep red. she’s got at least four inches on Mel in those heels. “How can I help you? Have you heard of NexxusFluxx?”
“umm, well, yeah, i actually already caught your CTO’s talk this morning, i’m a sort of interested engineer but i was actually hoping to learn more about your business model?”
“Great! He and the other engineers are in the middle of a panel right now, but lucky for you, I’m the one responsible for our current business model, so I’d be happy to walk you through it.”
not a booth babe, actually. fuck, she shouldn’t have assumed, that’s just messed up, how did she internalize that? wow… bad Mel.
“umm, that’d be great! uh… any chance i could grab one of those bags of M&Ms while we’re at it? you know how cons are…”
the woman laughs. “Yeah, I know. Hey, it’s been kinda quiet around here anyway, they don’t really need me on the floor. Why don’t we just go grab a booth in the bar and I can explain how our ethical small-campaign machine-learning-driven exchange market works?” she winks, and whispers, “Expense account.”
oh please, not the bar…
but the other woman smells really good. and also, although the prospect of harvesting a soul is extremely on her mind right now, she’s still kinda hungry. “sure! that sounds great!”
she braces herself as she and the NexxusFluxx director of marketplace strategy enter the hotel bar. it’s loud, it’s alternately too bright and too dim, she’s already wincing on the inside and hoping it doesn’t show. but the other woman whisks her to a booth round the corner from the main hubbub and it’s actually… not so bad.
“Tapas to start, I think, and I’ll have a lemon drop, and she’ll have a…” the other woman flicks eyes up and down Mel, judging, assessing. “Hmm. Let me see if I can guess. You don’t drink much but you tried an inoffensive beer once at a company party and didn’t hate it. Shock Top.”
she nods. the director pretty much has her number. this is supposed to be her job, really, it’s her role, her whole deal, but, she doesn’t actually mind?
“Don’t look so shocked, honey, I deal with engineers all the time. Okay. So here’s how we started with the first iteration…”
the other woman barely takes her eyes off Mel, even as the tapas and drinks arrive.
okay, so, in retrospect, it was clear that they were going to end up here, in the NexxusFluxx director’s hotel room. that was a pretty hard sell for one engineer at a conference full of them. she’s a little more in her element now, she knows how this is going to end, and she’s excited.
“ohhh gosh. thanks for inviting me up, that last shot hit pretty hard, i need to just, sit down for a while… how do you even walk in those heels?”
“Practice,” the other woman says, “Lots of practice.” the other woman takes her heels off carefully, puts them in the shoe rack by the door. she takes her dress off too, slipping it onto a hanger. her underwear is much, much more expensive than Mel’s.
then she extracts an unprotesting Mel from her hoodie. “I’ve had a lot of practice at other things too, as it happens. In case you were wondering.” the other woman pats the bed, indicating where she should sit.
“i absolutely am. you, uhh, you smell really good, can. you. uhh. please kiss me.”
their lips touch, tentatively at first, then with genuine passion. but nothing happens. which is not what was supposed to happen: the other woman’s soul should have been torn from her body the instant she surrendered herself to lust. seemingly realizing this, the other woman recoils.
“What the actual fuck. Wait. Oh shit! Oh, wow, Mel? I haven’t seen you in fucking forever!”
she’s too confused for words, but fortunately the other woman isn’t.
“It’s Jen! We went to Pandemonium High together!”
“haha, wait, this is… okay, i do remember you… what a weird coincidence! i was totally trying to harvest you and i didn’t even know!”
“Me too! Wow! Hi!”
they both giggle a bit at that.
“We both locked onto each other. You know what this means, right? The tech industry has a serious diversity problem.”
“fucking tell me about it! it’s not just about college, it’s about retention of mortal women throughout their entire careers…”
“I know. I know. It’s a fucking mess.” Jen sighs. “We’re not gonna fix it tonight, though. Wanna make out?”