Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 43

In which Jones samples the best enchiladas in Needles

Jones fixed his eyes on the door, trying to make out the conversation. The low, rasping voice of the older cyborg dominated the conversation. Her arms groaned softly as she poured herself a glass of water.

“Mad Crab needs a stronger technical vision.”

“Crypto is coming back. All the signs are there!” One of the young men was excited.

The older woman cut him off. “Crypto never left. It has always been just as worthless.”

“The Next Economy is going to change the game. The government says it’ll still be backing the dollar, but everyone knows that’s a joke. Some of the old exchanges are already turning their servers back on.”

“Every one of those exchanges has been hacked, sometimes by us,” the other woman said. “If the dollar is worthless, what will you buy your bitclown with? Treasury notes? Shells?”

“That’s why we have to get in now! Before the dollar plummets completely. We buy cheap US dollars, buy cheap bitcoin, bitcoin becomes valuable, people work for us to get the bitcoin we have!”

“The supply is so low,” said the younger woman. “So much of it has been lost. Mining’s done.”

“What’s great about cryptocurrencies,” said one of the other cyborgs, out of beat with the conversation, “Is that no one can take it away from you. Not the government, not the World Bank. We start marketing that fact and, people will flock to it.”

“If the World Bank takes away our internet, isn’t that like taking away our bitcoin?” the younger woman pointed out.

“Halka’s right,” said the rasping voice. None of the other cyborgs said anything. They were chewing, considering a world without internet.

“But the internet will still be up,” one of men volunteered. “That’s where the Next Economy markets will run. Maybe we can hack into it and use it.”

“We need an alternative internet,” said the rasping voice, sounding aggrieved. “We need satellites, and fiber, and solar electricity. I’ve told Fran this a dozen times but she won’t listen. She says she never wants to wire another switch in her life.”  

“What if we brought back the postal service?” one of the young cyborgs suggested. “Like they used to do in the 19th century, they mailed letters and did their business and stuff through catalogs.”

“Then we’ll need to bring back general literacy.”

The group chewed a little longer. Forks clinked against plates and arm braces.

A new voice spoke up, anxious. “Do you think we’ll still have access to augmentation? I’ve been saving up for an implant like Fran has, you know how she’s always got like three different satellite feeds going at the same time? But it's all dynamically combined so she’s able to understand it without trying? And she knows about earthquakes before the governor does? Can I still get that even if dollars aren’t worth anything?”

“Continued access to augmentation is BeyondMelinda’s top priority,” the older cyborg rasped firmly. “Everything she does is in support of that goal. That’s not going to change just because the economy and the government and the autonomous vehicle network are all falling apart.”

“Tell me, Judith, how does stealing a military-grade quantum supercomputer ensure continuing access to augmentation?” asked the younger woman. She sounded irritated. “It’s bringing us a lot of heat. What are we even going to do with it.”

“Not our problem,” said Judith. “BeyondMelinda knows what she’s doing.” 

This seemed to end the conversation. The group called the waiter over. After a few more minutes, they piled out of the booth, exoskeletons creaking. None of them looked at Jones as they walked out the door. Jones nodded at the owner as he stacked plates.

“I guess I’ll be settling up too,” he said, although he desperately wanted to linger. The waiter shook his head. 

“Those folks covered you,” he said. “Did you enjoy your meal?”

Startled, Jones looked at the departing group. The door was swinging closed behind them. “Best enchiladas in Needles,” he said. “They were very good.”

The owner smiled sadly. “Glad to hear it. Tell your friends. Business is ok, but it could always be better.”

The proprietor had taken out a mop and started cleaning dusty boot marks off the parquet floor.

“Are you worried about the Next Economy?” Jones asked. “Being a business owner, I mean.”

“Look around you,” said the owner. “What do we have in Needles? We don’t have a hospital, we don’t have a fire station, we don’t have police. The only reason this town ever existed was the railroad. All those jobs went away with the automation project. We just have angry people, dangerous heat, and the Colorado River. There’s no economy here. There hasn’t been for some time. Yet people need to eat, I make good enchiladas, and we make it work. Whatever happens out there in the world, I don’t think it will have much effect on us here in little old Needles.”

Jones thought about Mad Crab. Their presence in the town foretold more change than the proprietor realized. Jones thanked him again and went out into the starry desert night.