Amphibole

30 Dec

“The people of Pandora have always been pioneers in commerce and banking,” boasted Leonid Bandis. “You have chosen the least conservative planet in the Hellenic Archipelago for this great enterprise of yours.”

Dr. Xenophan took the measure of the banker and warned himself to be careful.

“It will not be easy, not at all. To enter into a new system of money, credit, and value accounting will be like starting up an entirely new economic system from scratch. It is a very radical change that is being contemplated.”

Bandis beamed with his professional business smile, as assuring and sincere as possible.

“You happen to be the inventor of the incredible amphibolla thread, Dr. Xenophan. Are you having any qualms about trying out the new money here on Pandora planet? My colleagues and I are not at all afraid of the new. This will be the first Greek colony to utilize a medium of exchange and store of value that is implanted inside the brains of both buyers and sellers. How did you ever come up with such a startlingly innovative concept? And how did you succeed in developing it?”

The hazel eyes of Xenophan grew large and misty. “I’ve been working on brain implants for over thirty years. At first, they were small projects. Ever more miniature fibers were placed into the central brain stems of subjects. The smallest of threads became more and more refined.

“Then I asked myself: how could I get an entire society to accept microthreads of amphibole in the brains of its members? And an answer came to me like a thunderbolt out of the sky.

“Money. Nothing is more universal. It is shared in common, understood and accepted by everyone. It is a language everyone knows, the commodity that no one ever turns down. This most transmutable of all human products can take on a multitude of different forms. Money is what holds all our lives together.”

“A stroke of genius, Dr. Xenophan,” grinned Bandis, the central banker.

The silver-haired creator of amphibolic money continued. “I asked myself where the value of what we call money resides? And I replied that it was entirely inside the mind. Metal, paper, plastic, or electronic, it is all up here inside the head.”

Xenophan pointed to his oversized forehead.

“So, I simply decided to put what we call money back where it originated. Its birthplace was the brain. We will merely return it to its home.”

Rossos Spirtos had a secret yen for the woman in charge of the introduction of the new amphibolic money for the Reserve Bank of Pandora. Malama Chrimata had the face and hair of a golden goddess as far as he was concerned. If only she were not so young. If only I were not in my decline, he sighed.

The greenish light of day illuminated her blond hair, pale face, and saffron business dress. The two of them had important business to transact, he realized. The ultimate success of the new money system depended on how they worked together.

Malama spoke first, in a strong, high soprano voice.

“All of the silicon threads have their virus frames constructed and are ready for implanting. It is a mighty undertaking, but within a week over 100,000 microthreads will be capable of communicating with each other through our bank terminals. Think of it! Each person will be able to deal with our bank computers and therefore with each other wherever they happen to be on Pandora. We will, in a short time, create an electronic network that will encompass the entire economy of this planet!”

Rossos stared at her glowing face. “It’s so exciting that it frightens me at times, Malama.”

The latter blinked in confusion. “What can go wrong?”

“I don’t know,” he tried to smile confidently. It was only a shadowy premonition, he silently told himself.

Leonid Bandis held a media conference the first day the silicon microthreads were activated within brains. He glowed with pride and joy over the accomplishment.

“This great day for the people of Pandora will open a whole new world of possibilities. All money and credit of the past will become instantly obsolete in a very short while. The Reserve Bank is fully prepared for that glorious day. Our computers will carry out all the accounting operations for every user, whether individuals, companies, or banks.

“It is therefore mandatory that all funds be centrally deposited with us. I urge the public to insist that all banks on Pandora join and consolidate into the Reserve Bank as soon as possible. If your accounts are in another institution, you will have to move them to us, or else your present bank must merge into us at once. That will result in a smoothly operating, unified system of thread-based money that is universally accepted.

“I thank all of you in the name of the directors of the Reserve Bank of Pandora.”

An economic storm raged on the planet for days. Crowds of confused and often angry individuals stood in line for their implants. Banks were compelled by their customers to consolidate with the Reserve Bank. A worried Rossos Spirtos rushed into the office of Malama to have words with her.

“The introduction of the microthreads has been a surprising success!” she beamed at him. “The new system of exchange grows greater and wider each day. It will soon be complete. Aren’t you happy about it, Rossos?”

The man with the silver hair did not return her smile.

“I am disturbed that my brainchild has turned into an instrument of greed,” he muttered.

Malama gave a start. Her brow furrowed. “What do you mean? Aren’t you happy with the results we have so far?”

“The happiest person on Pandora is your boss, Bandis. He has brought over half the banks already, and will eventually win control of all of them. The Reserve Bank has multiplied its deposits and reserves many times over. And this absolute consolidation is due to my invention of the microthread insert.”

“The economic system is becoming streamlined and efficient, Rossos.”

Neither man spoke as they stared inquiringly at each other.

“Are you free for dinner this evening, Malama?” asked Rossos, changing his flow of thought.

The golden head nodded yes, she was not engaged anywhere.

“I have not had enough time to try the renowned cuisine of Pandora yet. Would you join me in some culinary exploration?” he hesitantly asked.

“My goodness, I’d be delighted, Rossos.” She wondered why he had not asked her sooner.

Malama sat musing among the top twenty staff members waiting for Director Bandis to arrive. It must be something important for him to summon all of them to this conference, she supposed. Her mind strayed to the image of Russos Spirtos, the handsome bachelor. He had never had time for anything but fiber science and all its mysteries and problems. But last night she had glimpsed how he felt about her. And the silver-haired inventor had aroused her own long dormant romantic interest as well.

As she looked up, Director Bandis entered the large room and went to the podium in front. Why did she dislike her boss so much? she wondered.

He represented mad, uncontrolled ambition in her thinking. He was a monomaniac obsessed with consolidation of power over money in all its forms.

“Friends and colleagues,” he began. “I have some very good news to report. The last seven independent banks on our planet have given in and will merge with us as soon as possible.

“We will soon enjoy a hundred percent control of Pandora’s money. Our microthreads march on to triumph after triumph!

“But progress cannot stand still or take a rest. So, let me reveal our next theater of operation. Five trading companies and three manufacturing corporations have just agreed to consolidate with each other under our own aegis. We will control their combined capital, which is enormous. This will be our opening into commerce and production. It will grow and expand as each day passes. We shall be everywhere in the economy of Pandora. We will do everything, because we have set up and now run the microthread system that has been implanted in so much of our population.”

Malama nearly expected the all-powerful executive to be foaming at the mouth as he rushed from the conference room to his next big financial victory.

Rossos came to her apartment that evening for a late supper for two. The perpetual light of the sky drifted in through the broad panoramic windows. After eating, the two listened to microtapes of antique Attic music. There followed a period of serious talk between them.

“It’s as if a demon has taken over possession of the Director,” she said fearlessly. “An insanity centered on the power of the microthreads makes him into a monster. What motivates the man, Rossos?”

“Greed. He is acting out of avarice,” he whispered to her, staring into the lustrous face of Malama.

“Have you ever felt greed?” she unexpectedly asked him.

“Perhaps long ago. I was hungry for fame and fortune, but all that died in me.”

Malama gave him a look of surprise, but said nothing more.

“I lost all of that when I fell in love with you,” he softly confessed.

Rossos soon left, having nothing more to say at the time.

The Director had never before visited the office of Malama, but there he was, standing in the doorway.

“Please come in, Mr. Bandis,” she nervously mumbled.

The towering figure in the expensive silk suit closed the door behind him, then approached her, leaning forward over the small aluminum desk.

“You have done a fine job in the introduction of the amphibolic money. But now I have a new, urgent project. It is a sort of secret mission.” His voice grew weak. “As you know, every bank on Pandora has merged with us. So have most of the trading and manufacturing firms. But there remains an obstacle. The remaining independent businesses are banding together to try to open facilities to develop their own, secondary system of amphibolic money. Informers report they will be able to enter into our network through their dealings with units that are connected to it. But our many bank terminals will not enjoy any control over all these independent transactions of theirs with third parties. The situation threatens to halt our drive toward consolidation. Anyone will be able in the future to break into our lines and send money back and forth between transmitters and receivers implanted in separate, independent persons. This will stymy what we are doing.

“We have to take action before any of this becomes a reality.”

“But how?” meekly asked Malama.

“I want you to see Rossos Spirtos about developing technology to block any such sabotage of our network system. Tell him that we will need countermeasures at once.”

Malama found Rossos at his hotel and explained what Bandis wanted him to do.

“What do you think, my dear?” he asked with a visible tremble on his face.

“He is far more than merely possessed. Bandis is essentially evil in nature. Your duty is to resist him and his goals. So is mine, I now understand.”

He thought deeply for a moment. “I must leave Pandora and never return here. Please, my dear, come away with me before it becomes too late.”

Malama found it impossible to give him any reply.

“I have to leave before the morning hours begin, there is no other way. Will you accompany me?” he pleaded.

She managed to stammer her answer.

“Not now. I will follow you later.”

Rossos Spirtos stood waiting at a Rocket Station on his home planet of Galia. The passengers from Pandora were disembarking from the vessel. He was able to catch sight of the woman he had not seen in over six months of time.

Malama, holding a document in her hand, spotted him and rushed forward, smiling through a veil of tears.

“This is my pardon,” she announced. “I am now a free woman and Pandora no longer suffers that great evil we helped bring to it. The independent units and the persons with transmitters and receivers have taken hold of the whole money and credit system. Every user now enjoys total freedom within the law. Consolidation has crumbled into dust, because there no longer is anything left of the Reserve Bank.”

“And it was you, Malama, who did all that and went to jail for it.”

She spoke to him through her tears of joy. “All I did was to tie knots in the amphibolic microthreads at the control center of the Reserve Bank. They became paralyzed and unable to send out commands of any sort.”

“I understand that Mr. Bandis became mixed up and unable to function,” laughed Rossos.

“I scrambled his evil mind. He will never recover his previous power and sway.”

He bent forward and kissed her. “But you had to pay the price of trial and punishment for illegal interference and microthread sabotage.”

“It was worth the price. I knew what I was doing. My actions gave the people of Pandora the time needed to develop their own system of amphibolic threads, free of any centralized control.”

She grinned through her wet eyes. “Our money will now exist the way you meant it to be, my dear Rossos.”

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