chapter 97: Mike tells Darcy not to go

== 2064: Karen’s Fish, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Mike dipped the fried calamari into tartar sauce, chewed, and swallowed. “What do you mean you’re not afraid? The satellites just got burned again. That’s TWICE now. And this time they started by taking out the ones over Farside. THAT should scare you. Hell, it scares me. We have no idea how they did it, but the PKs clearly have the capability to put hardware in lunar orbit. For all we know it’s still there – right now!”

Mike looked at Darcy to see if his words were getting through, but she was looking down at her plate, spreading wasabi onto her sashimi with a chop stick.

He continued “And lets not forget that your ship was hijacked by the PK goons. Isn’t that clear enough?”

Darcy picked up a piece of tuna, dipped into soy sauce, then put it back down. “Mike, I’m not debating any of that. What I am saying is that if you’re going to open source the AG drive, you can’t just throw that out there by itself. We need a click-and-forget nav package. The UI we’ve got now is too complicated. It’s for power users, and you’re proposing that we hand this insanely complicated tool to neophytes and then expect them to use it correctly the first time.” She shook her head. “That won’t work – we need something simple. We need to lock-out launching from certain latitudes and longitudes, we need a tool to auto-calibrate the AG drive, we need abort procedures, we need- ”

Mike grimaced. “I know all that, and I don’t care. The point is that the situation has never more dangerous. The Earth governments are starting to boil over – especially with that fucker Hugh – excuse me – and his friends doing their propaganda webcasts. We’ve already lost the RTFM, the Wayward, and Character Forming – and we came damn close to losing the Wookie – with you on it! And now with Gamma’s sats burned again-”

“They burned the satellites before and nothing came of it -”

“That was before. Who knows what they’ve got planned this time? You can’t go out again – it’s too dangerous.”

“Mike, do you accept that we need to open source the AG drive in order to get a critical mass of population?”

Mike grimaced and said nothing.

“You can stay silent if you want to, but you’re the one who said those exact words to me, so that counts as a yes. Next question – do you accept that as one of the original authors of the navigation code that I am the best one to develop and test the idiot-proof open-source version of the program?”

“Look, you’re one of the best, but -”

“Yes, I’m one of the best, and the other top people are all working their asses off too. So that’s two points in agreement. Third question – don’t you agree that to make sure that the auto-calibration features work on actual hardware in the actual Earth gravity field?”

Mike glowered. “No, I don’t accept that – you can do that remotely.”

Darcy was incredulous. “With a multi-second round-trip coms lag? And, worse than that, without having my own eyes on the prototype mini drives? I’m supposed to use Waseem as my eyes and hands as I’m editing code 400 thousand klicks away?”

Mike crossed his arms silently. Darcy pushed on.

“Look, I’m going on a Fifth Ring ship, and their security upgrade is in high gear. All their ships have been retrofitted with reinforced exterior hatches, man traps behind each door, and they’re working with Bao over at Trusted Security to get some armed men on each ship. They’re even talking about claymores on the deck, and – ”

Mike raised his voice. “I’ve told you I don’t like this, and I’ve told you why. You can’t take risks like this!”

Darcy fixed him with a look. “Mike, I don’t appreciate that tone -”

Mike pushed his chair back and stood. “Well I don’t appreciate you going out on a stupid dangerous run!”

“Mike, please sit -”

“No, God damn it!”. He balled his napkin and threw it down on the table. “I’m not going to sit and listen to this – this – idiocy!” He then turned and walked away, past silent diners at the other tables who stared at him. After he’d taken a few steps Mike turned back. “If you get caught by those bastards, I’m not coming to get you.” Darcy stared at him, open mouthed.

God damn it. He turned and stalked out of the restaurant. Why did Darcy have to take these risks? If she got caught, he’d – he’d – He made a fist and punched his thigh. He had no idea what he’d do. Which is why he had to stop her now, before she went.

He reached the sidewalk and looked for his motorcycle before remembering that they’d taken a cab together. He grimaced, looked up and down the sidewalk, then set off for the nearest taxi stand. As he walked he rubbed a hand over his forehead and back over his bristle cut. Damn it! He wasn’t perfect at keeping his cool in business negotiations, but at least there when you raised your voice and called someone an asshole, you could just apologize and make things better. But this? What the hell sort of compromise was he supposed to reach, anyway?

On the one hand, Darcy was right: the revolution needed the open source AG to increase the lunar population. Even with the existing shipping companies ran their boats around the clock, the lines of would-be emigres were already getting longer and longer. The bitching on the discussion boards was already reaching a fever pitch as people who had sold their houses and cars for illegal gold found that the waiting lines were weeks, if not months long. So, yes, transportation needed to be crowd-sourced. He knew that. Hell, hadn’t that been HIS point in the first place? And, yes, Darcy was the right person for the job. Fuck – even though he hated to admit it, she was even right way to do the job was to go to Earth. But she’d been taken prisoner once already, and if she went again –

God damn it.

He just didn’t know what to do.

The cab stop was just up ahead.

“Mike!”

He just wanted to tell Darcy…shit, he didn’t know what he wanted to tell her. If only-

“Mike! What are you doing here?”

He looked up.

Javier? “Jave, this isn’t a good time.”

“It’ll just take a few minutes. I just had dinner with Mark Soldner, and -”

“Javier, I’m serious, can we do this later?”

Javier was uncharacteristically excited. “Come on, give me a few minutes then I’ll let you go. So I was reaching out to Mark, trying to patch things over between the factions in light of the new attack on the satellites, and we got to talking about financing the militias, the e-p-doors, some lobbyists on Earth.”

Mike sighed. It seemed he couldn’t get out of this. “OK, and?”

“And it’s all going to require a lot of money. A LOT.”

“I know that.”

“So Mark and I were talking about how to finance it. We talked about the idea you and I have kicked around – each member of the board taking loans against their firm and property and kicking into the pool. Mark had a different idea. It’s based on REITs.”

“REITs?” Mike saw Darcy exit the restaurant behind Javier, then turn and see him.

“Real estate investment trust – it’s a synthetic instrument, a diversified bundle of shares in various pieces of real property. They’ve been illegal on Earth for a few decades, but the point he was making was that instead of each of us taking loans by ourselves, we use all these assets together and issue one centralized set of bonds. Not as individuals, but as the Boardroom Group.”

Mike looked at Darcy over Javier’s shoulder and caught her eye. She stared back. He tried to let her see that he – what? That He didn’t want to fight? That he was sorry? But that despite all of that he still REALLY didn’t want her to go on the mission?

Whatever got through, it wasn’t enough; after a moment Darcy turned and walked down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. God damn it! Why did women have to be so obtuse?

“Mike, did you hear me?”

“Yeah, I heard you.”

“So what do you think?” Jesus. He preferred Javier in his normal laconic mode, not this hyped-up caffeinated version.

Mike sighed. “Uh, it sounds decent, I guess. I don’t know. I need to think about it some more.” Behind Javier, Darcy disappeared from view, lost around a corner, or behind other pedestrians. Shit.

“Well, wait. It get’s more interesting. This is where the magic happens. After we bundle the resources, we leverage them.”

God damn it – Darcy was gone. But what was Javier saying? Leverage the resources? Mike’s eyes narrowed. “Leverage them how?”

“Fraction Reserve Banking.” Mike could hear the capitalization.

“What does that mean?”

“We’re going to start a bank under the aegis of the Boardroom Group, collateralized with real assets – some of Mark’s buildings, stock in Morlock, stock in my firm. The bank creates a currency which gives us liquidity. An army fights on it’s stomach, right? Well, the quartermaster corp fights on liquidity. We’re going to win this war, hermano!”

Javier chuckled to himself. “Anyway, Mike, you said now wasn’t a good time, so I’ll get out of your hair. Let’s talk tomorrow, though, OK? And, hey, look, here’s a taxi. ” He pumped Mike’s hand once, and opened the door to the taxi and sat inside. A moment later it accelerated away silently, leaving Mike alone at the curb.

“We’re going to start a bank? What the fuck?”

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