Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 41

In which Jones catches up on more news

Jones settled down in the motel’s business center. He hadn’t seen any other guests yet so he decided he would hog the single ancient desktop stationed next to the printer. In the corner, a TV was on. Jones started loading the data from his USB stick onto the workstation. As he set about structuring and cleaning the information, he flipped through the channels. Every cable channel was reporting on the transition to the Next Economy. He gave up looking for something soothing, and settled on Bloomberg News.

Onscreen, a news anchor in a red silk tracksuit stood outside of an art-deco skyscraper, leaning eagerly towards the camera as she gestured at the scene behind her. The police had set up plastic barricades outside of the building. They lined up behind it with beanbag guns, impassive as they stared down a mass of young men in rumpled dress shirts. The police wore gas masks. Neckties littered the pavement. 

“The Chicago Board of Trade is now on lockdown. A group of former stock traders has refused to leave the building following notice that they are no longer eligible to participate in the Next Economy. The traders are demanding to be let back in. Police have mobilized to stabilize the scene. My colleague in Aurora is on standby to report on developments to this story.”

The camera cut to another anchor outside a grey industrial building. Another police perimeter had blocked the entrance, although they were less heavily armed than the city police had been. More clean-cut young men massed in front of them. These traders were holding baseball bats and crowbars.

“I’m reporting from the CME group data center outside of Chicago, in Aurora, IL. Police are here to protect the building from a group of rogue stock traders after they attempted to storm the building and destroy the computers inside it. These 'racks' contain some of the IT infrastructure necessary for trading on the stock market - in particular, the ‘High Frequency Trading’ that will continue in the Next Economy.” 

The camera cut to a reporter standing with one of the rumpled young men. “Tell me,” the reporter asked, “Why do you want to unlawfully enter this facility and smash its equipment?”

“Look,” the trader said. “If the HFTs get to participate in the market, we should too. We made those algorithms. We made this whole market. Do you know who we are? Tell me how some shitty C++, that I wrote personally - while absolutely blasted on amphetamines - is suddenly supposed to be more rational than I am? How the fuck is that sustainable?”

The camera cut back to the Board of Trade.

“Unconfirmed sources suggest that these traders have been radicalized not just by the loss of their jobs, but by incendiary organizations involved in broader organizing against the Next Economy.” The camera zoomed in on the angry faces milling around in the crowd. A woman with a Mad Crab tattoo on the back of her neck looked into the camera, then turned and melted into the scrum. The camera jumped away. Jones changed the channel to local news. The local anchor sat solemnly behind a desk in their studio.

“The World Bank refuses to apologize for what critics are calling a ‘non-existent transition plan’ and a ‘fully absent understanding of human behavior and society,’ and has announced that they expect the rollover to be complete within ten days. Markets are still closed to all trading except HFT, but the Federal Reserve remains open. 

"In a statement released to the press, Federal Reserve Chairman Eliza Brinkmann suggested that World Bank CTO ‘Come on over to Washington and tell me what the most efficient interest rates are to my face.’ There is no word on whether the World Bank CTO plans to accept the invitation. 

“Governors in twenty-six states have declared states of emergency, citing widespread looting. The President of the United States has not yet released a comment on the current situation, promising an address to the public at the end of the week. Here in Nevada, the Chairman of the Virtual Vegas Tourism Board has promised that electricity from the Hoover Dam will continue to flow gratis to minimize the impact of the transition for local employees and valued guests.”

Jones switched to Virtual Vegas public access. Stock footage of a corn field filled the screen. An androgynous voice spoke over it in a halting cadence. It sounded familiar, but Jones didn’t recognize it.

“Meanwhile, corn futures have risen. Analysts predict that after a period of short-term food insecurity, fully-automated agriculture like corn and soybeans will begin to produce at record highs of efficiency.”

Jones hit the remote and relished the sixty-dollar privilege of being able to turn off the news. Things didn’t seem good but he couldn’t do much about it, and he didn’t want to hear about it anymore. His data dump complete, he set the keyboard aside and picked up the printouts that had piled up in the printer. He needed to have a better understanding of quantum computing in order to gain insight into the motives of Mad Crab. While anyone would enjoy the idea of stealing a military-grade quantum supercomputer, Mad Crab would only take the risk if they thought it would be useful. He needed to understand what quantum supercomputers could actually do, and what they could do for Mad Crab.