The Bankers Who Sold the World

All material Copyright 2009 Simon Drake

The Bankers Who Sold the World by Simon Drake

Books by Simon Drake available at

A comedy about hot shot bankers that sell the earth to aliens during the financial crisis, when earth is at its CHEAPEST.
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The Bankers Who Sold the World - Introduction

At the peak of the financial crisis, a high-flying team of morally bankrupt, egotistical, ambitious and international bankers flying to a global emergency financial bailout meeting are visited by a duo of egotistical, ambitious, intergalactic alien bankers.
The alien bankers ask if earth requires an intergalactic bailout that could save earth's crumbling economy by selling a part of earth to the alien banker's clients from across the galaxy.
For the hot shot earthling bankers, keen to win deals, it is a clash of greed, ego, plus classic over and under-valuation of their own planet. Also, the alien bankers may be a different species but the game is the same: Thanks to the financial crash earth is going cheap, yet what is it really worth? Who are the clients and what are their goals and assets? And for the deal to be closed requires the usual twists of brinkmanship hedged on universally accepted fundamentals of return on value, depreciation, and of course bonuses.
As with every deal there is a hitch - and for this intergalactic merger and acquisition it could be the short-sightedness of the earthling bankers, or the greed of the alien bankers from across the universe, or the clients: the high-risk and no-assets parasitic Klonger race, looking to invest in a new planet to call home.
Can the earthling bankers save earth without selling out earth, get back their vision, and earn their capitalist redemption? Will the alien bankers alter the course of humanity, or is earth just too much of a risk? How will historians of the future, both human and the artificially intelligent, view this clash of civilizations?...

A Credit Crunch Comedy.

After the Crash

Kicking the Dead Cat

Digital Gaia

Invest in Earth

 

The Bankers Who Sold the World

Sample Chapters. All material Copyright 2009 Simon Drake

After the Crash

"Oh my God end the fucking pain!" Howard wailed, a curious mix of helpless venom and ridicule peaking into an entertaining and piercing note, punctuating his dizzied dance atop the tumbling columns of capitalism.
"Somebody, bitches! Anybody! End it! End the mother-of-all flat-lining bear-fucking-the-market pain fest!"
Howard then slumped into his chair and simmered. Outside his Learjet the world passed by at close to the speed of sound. Inside, live televised feeds bubbled away, ripping open the chasm of the crash. Howard's ski tan had faded and failed to conceal his pallid complexion and a mix of revulsion and hunger gnawed from within. On the television screens overdone glowing graphs of stock data tumbled down and if not steeply, lay flat, and then nose-dived straight down again like an alpha kamikaze. Traders and analysts on soon-to-be empty trading floors stood pale and mute at their consoles clutching at what hair they hadn't lost already. On another screen were the witty foxes and pedigree poses of public relations, corporate governance, superhuman over-qualified management, impeccable boards, and general circus masters of the industrial strength deceivers. Some were overpaid and still poker-faced, and the rest, the great sniveling, underpaid and under-rewarded, were gaping to reporters that they had no idea how and why they were now fools in the self-destructing and obviously obliterating credit rush they had mashed together in an orgy of oversight.
The supreme leaders of the packs that formed the arrow head to the great cyclic herd, slimmed by expensive suits and sharpened by media training, once masters of fiscal diplomacy, ubiquitous corporate advice, textbook tact and an undertaker's grace, huddled like sheep to press conferences and mouthed the words fatal to any economy: "Oh. Shit."
"Yes -- you idiots! You're an embarrassment to capitalism! End the fucking pain you bitches!" Howard merrily drew his whisky glass to his lips, tilted it one way and his head the other, then washed his words down. "Oh yeah baby…" He drew on the glass again, his eyes wincing then widening, shifting between the many screens blocking the light from the ovular windows: the DOW and the DAX raced each other to where the FTSE already lay. It was a historical multiple car pile-up, a stinging but comical slap across many once smitten fat faces, yet Howard still looked for a pattern in the collapse, something he could bet on, against, with, or at the least, sell. This had gone on too long -- a new age had dawned.
On another screen were the politicians bluffing their way through an emergency meeting in London (Howard's destination), resilient and resolved, that come what may, and what ever it takes, they would still be in power, and maybe even stronger, come election day.
"Yeah baby: Double-fisting-fiscal-gang-banging is coming to town! Roll out the red carpet for the Marx Brigade -- not!"
Around Howard, in his private jet, sat his team, watching their portfolio and the clients' hard won profits and safe investments, spiral into a statistically and perfectly predictable, but for many psychologically impossible, dark, deep and murky hole. They did not hear the roar of the jets, or the nasal tones of over amplified American reporters, or even their own fretful, jilted breaths.
A great vacuum called them.
The Learjet jolted as they shot through a rivulet of turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean.
"End it. Jesus," Howard muttered, a sly smile kinking his lips, "You know you want to. Or Allah, or any Monetary Messiah. That's what's going through their omnipresent brains!" Howard's pinkie-white index finger ran loops over television screens; bewildered politicians, stuttering spin doctors, morbid 21st century globalize peasants. "Oh, no need to be so damn defeatist!" he roared to the world, his team, and the ember of opportunism still smoking away in his cold calculating mind.
Howard's team numbly gaped at the flat screen televisions, oblivious to the sound and image bytes. Their eyes were fixed and their bodies limp, but ticking away were the constant machinations of analysis and outcomes. Howard sniffed. They'd ignored must of his rants, even pre-crash, and he wondered, what will be the same after the crash? Hadn't everyone who had witnessed the other Great Crash -- the Great Mother or all Depressions -- gone on to the Great Ticker in the sky? Howard's coarse eyes scanned his team: If he could hold it together, they'd hold it together, and they could beat this, but could those shirt and tie or rags and sacks peasants in modern suburbia or 3rd world ghettos in Suckburbia and Debitstan?
Chan had his doubts. Chan had also read real history, not the latest publishing gimmicks and lowest common denominator socially digestible fads but old fading history books written before modernism re-interpreted the world for fragile minds. Chan was also a brain, not just a Quiz Show Monkey Template Brain, but a Rocket Scientist Boffin who turned down Astrophysics for Quantitative Trading. Now his mind locked on to distant and rapidly disappearing options and triggered alarms and constructed scenarios: Everything was going to shit, gurgling as if a black hole fed on it all.
Sitting beside him, the Financial Times folded in his lap and sanguinely thinking of a pint in the sunshine outside a pub in Mayfair, was Charles. One look and people knew: Old Money. Oxbridge connections. Definite aristocratic inbreeding circa early 19th century. Charles smacked his lips and poured another whisky -- Howard was right, for this ride only the best would do. He swung his nose through the vapors of the peaty single malt and palmed the newspaper away. At the television screen he forced a smirk; the media's mandatory portrayal of panic -- some souls, unfortunate enough to be on the wrong end of a colonial power leaving its territorial offspring too soon -- ran a bank, not with withdrawal slips and a new benchmark for irritating customer behavior, but with old machetes and a trusty AK-47. The savages are back, but can they reach all the way up to the pillars of modern civilization? He sighed, wondering if the US dollar's collapse was over, and if shopping on 5th Avenue would be hilarity, buying up everything in sight, snatching those bedazzling jewels and fancy boutique stuff while the newly impoverished once-so-grand-212-locals could only turn away and cry into their recycled-paper coffee cups. Teach the cocky yanks a thing or two about class. But these fun thoughts evaporated straight up into the ether: This was tough cookies. This was the big one; yet every generation had to face something big. Then he grimaced. This could be the end of it all.
Facing him, and perhaps more sadistically amused, sat Abdul. Think of an oil well, multiply it by a big number, think of a man, his harem of wives, and the multitude of offspring. Now think of the top 20% of the possible inheritors of the oil wells, and you have Abdul. Then think of fun, and then think of the cocaine supply at four AM at the Air Italia flight hostess parties in Milan: Gone. Sucked up. Abdul's first lines of age cracked from the corner of his eyes to the first shoots of grey hair as he wondered: How long will the West suck on that oil, they couldn't forever, but in his lifetime they wouldn't exactly be reverting back to the horse and cart to compliment electric cars. Abdul's majestic Arab features were rock hard, set in thought. But this was different, profoundly different, and he was not riding high with the like of Howard solely because of papa's oil: He was here to learn of the great many things that make the world go round, and sometimes, slows it down. So, he closed his eyes, how slow, dry and mundane, would it go?
Pierre observed his colleagues and wryly spied at the screens. It was all doom and gloom. Revolution and capitulation. The mobs waited centuries for these black swans. But would it lead to guillotines and Berlin Walls? Pierre was a Euro-Hybrid: His middle class father had suavely snuck under the aristocrat radar and wedded a bonbon of a Frauline. The union began with the fizz of the 68er movement, yet unlike many quasi-plutonic matrimonies, they stuck together because there was, as odd as it sounded, a unique love. What a rare commodity, he wondered, much like a touch of intelligence. So for him to slave 12 hours a day in the world of commodities, equities, exotic leveraged bonds and all that jazz, was not a means of replacing a love he did not have or find yet, or because of greed (there was a castle outside Alsace with his name on it) but because it entertained his brain. It was demanding and fun. He could play it. Some men lined up overweight mistresses, some men hedged funds. Some men bet on dogs. Some men enjoyed to be bet on, like dogs.
Howard made an overtly long and sorrowful look at the television screens, then raised and pointed his nose out the porthole style window to the beautiful cobalt blue sky outside. He wailed, with less volume, and tritely more peskiness, "Oh, God... End the pain." Something far away caught his eye, a distant cloud, a glimmer of sunshine on a jet aircraft like his own, yet he continued: "Now in case there's more than one... Dear Gods! End the pain!"
The Learjet rumbled as it passed through turbulence. The bankers roared, a mix of awe and adrenalin.
Abdul slapped his thigh. "I think that made him angry!"
"Well, if that's not progress, what is?"
Chan grumbled and nodded politely. "You can talk to the big guy up here but down there we've got a toxic sludge up to our nostrils. Every single one of our stocks dived. And across every industry nothing is safe."
"Oh the mother of all meltdowns," Howard smugly clicked his fingers in the air. "Sell! Sell! Sell! Hold! Buy! All that we've built, the blood, sweat and paper cuts, is crumbling!"
Mildly irritated into action, Charles prosaically interjected, "There must be something we can do."
"Like what?" Howard's torso bunched up and tumbled out into an expired shrug. "Turn back time? Make a rain dance? Tell those panicking peasants that the sky is not falling on their heads?"
"You mean, the market?"
"One and the same." Howard poured a round of scotch. "Moaning fuckers… No one has ever built a fail-safe system! You see, the bottom of society can ride the highs and lows better than us, the average Joe or Jolene, or no-income-no-job ninja, when the shit truly hits the fan, they just go back to the fields and plow…. Or slump at the call centers… But oh, when the middle class get scared they have time to moan… and dump our shares and bonds and our collatorized bond obligations… Feeding the fire… Eats us all…" He raised his glass for a toast, "I'll let you know though, our little investment bank may have seen the storm coming, we were one of the first to duck for cover, and even though the world has truly gone to hell in Satan's sperm donor cup, and maybe us with it, there's truly fuck all -- and then still nothing -- we can do about it. All we have left is our sense of pride, and what ever we paid for in cash while we had profits. Just remember, comrades, I've still got my modern art collection and no one can take that away from me! No one!"
Pierre shook his head. "You fell for modernity but you'll never get art."
"All in the eye of the beholder, Euro pansy." Howard grimly grinned and leveled his arm to the far end of the Learjet, to a small painting hanging on the fuselage. It was a truly magnificent piece, and to try and adequately describe it would be like asking a two year old child to visualize the growing complexities of their relationship with their mother using red and orange crayons on expensive Dutch canvas, which strangely enough was an accurate description of the work itself.
Charles heckled, "Your amazing modern art collection is the by-product of a cashed-up-psychopath with zero taste and too much wall space."
Howard stood tall, adjusted his tie, his New York nasal drone gruesomely decelerating, "So... Psychological mind games aside, you like it then? You're jealous."
"If 'like' means visual crucifixion, I'm orgasmic."
"So... you want to buy it? Not just that, but my entire collection?"
"Howard, exactly: Yes. For a fiver. Not a five pound or euro note, oh no, a U-S five dollar note -- that pitiful little currency we slaved so hard for."
"Little currency whore." Howard blinked, drained his scotch, raised his chin to Charles and turned away.
Pierre coughed into hand. "That's true, but to be more precise, he's a selective clientele currency whore."
"Actually, there is no clientele...." Chan sunk into the red leather char, his hands over his belly, fingers splayed, the tips of his fingers touching. "We are just stupid dumb sluts now."
"Oh." Howard stood as if suspended by a drunken puppeteer, "So no deal on the artwork then?"
Abdul said, "I'd give you a hundred greenbacks."
"Abdul, an offer like that, coming from you, now I know my land of McObesity and government funded auto-manufacturers is well and truly fucked up the a-"
"Shut your pretty cakehole, Howard!" Charles yelled, "We've heard it all before."

Up in the cockpit, the Pilot and Co-Pilot lived in a beautiful world, high above the stresses of city streets, they could fly over genocidal massacres and breaking tsunamis, and providing there was aviation gasoline and a tarmac, leap frog from one luxury hub to another, delivering their precious little cargo. Life was sweet, and then came the double crash. First there was the usual economic cream pie fight, and then it went wholesale and nasty. But in their line of business, people will always travel, the leaders will always fly in style, so a job loss could only be temporary for a specialized pilot. That was the life. There was a future. All was predictable, even in uncertain times, until:
The Pilot's breath shortened at the second alarm signal. Primary radar was temporarily not receiving (a possible one in six hundred glitch) and then the radio transmitter was strangely dipping in and out of operation (possible glitch, one in three hundred). Compute the two, and then add the possibility of the Learjet's engines faltering (rare), striking a bird (this high? Rare) or colliding with a thunder bolt (pretty rare) and anything else remotely oddball, and you were still alive?
Then the Co-Pilot, younger and fresher to these emergency spikes on the everything is fine barometer, assumed that two instances of trouble lead to another, and together, as a cluster, to the source.
Both quickly acknowledged that the two glitches, however severe, were rare, entertaining, and sometimes ends in a very fast dive to the ocean floor and the thousands of shipwrecks that lie there. They sat straight and appeared logical: Don't let the charade of competence tumble. However, more onboard alarms flashed. Everything, from LEDs to screens to static on the radio, went blank.
"Shit." The Pilot listened to the booming of his heart and the roar of the jet engines. "Take over."
"Sure." The Co-Pilot's hands closed over the controls and a chill pole-axed him -- there wasn't much to take over at all.
The power came back. Lights flickered.
The Pilot glanced from one alarm to the other, then everything in between. A complete meltdown (worst case scenario) in either hardwiring or software in the space of a minute was a career changing event. This was, he decided, a dangerous anomaly. What the hell next? A flame out? No chance to S.O.S? Halfway across the Atlantic, between shipping routes? As the first beads of sweat sprinkled across his forehead the radio cracked.
"ahem… Delta Five," it said curiously and hesitantly, "Communication problems..." and cut out.
"Who hires these guys," the Pilot barked to the Co-Pilot. "Out-sourced dimwits!"
"Air Traffic Controllers don't earn that much… They must be scraping the barrel."
The Pilot replied to the call: "This is Delta Five. Say again, over."
"... possibly solar flare ... electrical storm ... strays... paths, I repeat, strays into flight paths. ... ... your position and cargo, over.
The pilot robustly replied, "This is Captain Davids. Delta Five. Private jet. Traveling under Mach One, ferrying five financiers from New York to London. Clear."
The Air Traffic Control recruit said agitatedly, "I can barely hear you. Signal strength one… Delta five: Atlantic Military Command ... aircraft ... ... …. return to points of origin... …. confirm..."
The Co-Pilot turned to the Pilot. "Back to New York?"
"Negative Ghostrider." Then the Pilot spoke squarely into the radio: "Control, we're halfway across the pond... Is this due to the storm? Over."
The radio replied, somewhat gleefully: "No, Delta Five… A major incident is occurring… We understand your passengers are due at the Emergency World Economic Forum in London in four hours. Acknowledge."
"Correct. Cleared by the authorities… What's this about, Control?"
Again the radio reply was randomly intermittent, "... NATO Air Command ... tracking …. flying object… …. Closing …"
The Pilot seethed. "I've heard this all before."
"Royal Air Force …. …. three Tornados.... rendezvous … …. you ….'elve minutes…."
The Co-Pilot, an ex-RAF transporter, tipped his head back. "Now that's special treatment."
The Pilot spoke calmly into the radio, "Say again, over."
"Delta Five, … unidentified …. …. trailing … … …. closing in, I repeat,"
Then from the radio came a sound, whirring straight into the Pilot and Co-Pilot's headsets, that was un-mechanical, perhaps macro organic, and the last the pilots remembered, was that no human could ever have dreamt it.
Most predators have a distinct silhouette, and their intrusions are swift, simple and beautiful, yet the Co-Pilot was flushed with fear and a cold sweat when all around him he felt an incredible warmth.
"What the hell is going on!" he mumbled.
"Must. Not." the Pilot numbly replied, "Resist."
"Wake up!"
The Co-Pilot plucked off his headset and twisted his body so that his cheek was against the cold plates of the windscreen. One eye scanned aft, and for a split second he saw a warm and far reaching glow, yet knew the sun to be in another quadrant.

Go to start of The Bankers Who Sold the World

Kicking the Dead Cat

Howard decreed, both arms parting the aura, karma. or what ever spiritual notion was in fashion. "I am just trying to deal with the situation, gentlemen, in my own little way."
"So, we are cheaper than therapy?" Charles quipped.
Howard shook his head then nodded. "Talking to you about my neurosis and complexities would do more damage than good, but as we are in this together… United we stand -- Divided we fall… Yes."
"I say, damage assessment." Chan announced.
Pierre, Abdul and Charles winced.
"Great thinking," Howard said, "Listen guys, we made a tonne of money and even though we lost on average eighty-two percent of it, considering all things, we can make something work. Screw the damage, sorry Chan, but there is a way out of this global financial bitch slap."
Pierre said, "You've lost me: What?"
Then Chan, "I think you missed the point,"
"I know -- It's a long one -- Don't pull that nano-attention span 'say it in a sound-byte' mentality on me... We're in a mess. If you want to cry over this -- go for it, Daddy will buy you a pony -- if this tension is too much and you all get too emotional and girly on me -- do what ever you want, you go for it; mud-wrestling, man-loving -- just don't post it on the web or ruin the customer made Bordeaux red leather chairs in my personal jet,"
Pierre added, "You call that Bordeaux?"
"No," Howard's hand ran up and down the nearest red leather chair, "I specifically asked for redneck red and look what I got?"
Charles, Abdul, Chan and Pierre laughed, waiting for Howard's modest and lighting quick follow up, yet Howard was in the air, then stabilizing himself. The Learjet shuddered as it was throttled by a massive wave of turbulence, rattling their airborne can.
"Wow..." Howard said somberly. "That was God again, throwing real shit at the fan, waking us up."
All in the cabin sat and thought: The options. The perspective. The underlying problems.
Chan's mind raced. "So... Howard... when we get to the Emergency World Economic Forum in London, what do you really think we can offer?"
Howard massaged one hand with the other. "Do? Do… Do…. ? I'd say we've done enough. When I started Galactic Investments over ten years ago I had a vision, and now we're big, ballsy, connected, and we still have some cash reserves, but we haven't gone under.... Yet... How can you play ball when the rest of the world is 'out'? Hmm: Do? Awesome thinking."
Pierre sighed. "It is a very deep hole to crawl out of. There are more than just economic ramifications."
Chan glumly surmised, "It has to last for years, altering the course of modern history for perhaps a century…. Yet it is all inevitable."
"I never really needed those huge bonuses we made, but I will miss them." Charles said, nodding to Abdul.
"Sure, it was play money for an active mind... But now it's not a game."
Pierre added, "It never was. It was just the way of the times."
Howard's boisterous yet profanely nasal tone boomed: "You melancholic drips, can't you get medicated! Are you flaking out on me! Me! On my watch! You graduates! ... Oh I get it… Clean and simple… I've got an idea... This is where we stand… This is what happened. The Treasury called me up, 'Hey Howard we need your input. You were so great at Davos. Go over to Europe guns blazing and pull us out.' And I said, 'Sure. I deliver.' And now, I have to deliver, and all of you with me. We got this far because we are the best of the best…. And now before I sell our skills to the government bean counters and voters with pitch forks or what ever, what ever, what the fuck ever, I still have an idea."
"What?" Pierre asked, one eyebrow raised alarmingly.
"World. Rescue. Bonds. You like it? Tell me you like it! Say it quickly, don't let them think it over, or call us next month like a constipated Senator. Just say it: World Rescue Bonds. And again, World Rescue Bonds."
Howard glared at his underlings, their frowns were mild and their eyes elsewhere.
"Of course you don't like it," his voice scratched like gravel, "Because I didn't tell you your cut yet. So when I say World Rescue Bonds are your only bonus this Christmas, and you have no time to think it over, because soon we touch down to the circus, huh?"
"I don't know," Chan said.
"It's the kind of thing you'd have during a war. World Rescue Bonds. Like we were," Charles blew a gush of air up across his forehead to lift his floppy fringe out of the way, "Going toe-to-toe with the Ruskies or the Chinese and needing more cash for aircraft carriers."
"Exactly, it got you thinking!" Howard sipped his scotch and stretched his legs. "This is brain storming… It is… Because after this roller-coaster boom it should be time for a war, that always sorts it out. A good old fashioned arms race, campaigns for resources, all that stuff."
Pierre added, "So one pain is greater than the other..."
"History isn't pretty, except if you can afford to airbrush it." Howard summarized.
Chan pounced on the thread. "Who should go to war then? Someone will ignite some conflicts, jump-start the economies, and in three years we're back to a boom cycle."
The bankers sat in eerie contemplation. If there was to be a war, right now, any stock you wanted was slain like cannon fodder! Unbelievable! Howard, the alpha and the philosopher, stood up and paced up and down the narrow aisle, "You may mock our doubled-up economies, but I'm sorry to say, it's funny because it works -- a war would lift the world out of this financial abortion bucket. Such is life and don't blame the bankers."
All thought of the options. Global Bankruptcy equals War.
"I know," Chan said, "Blame the Russians. It doesn't matter what. Just pick something. They're use to it, they don't mind it, they feed on it."
"Great thinking!" Howard punched the air, emitted an apish call, and then something caught his eye from outside. He turned to the window, "What the?"
"What is that?" Chan asked.
Streaming through every window was a uniformly bright light, finer than sunlight and void of warmth.
Howard shrugged. "... Have we just... Overshot dawn?"
"Negative," Chan said, "We're heading east over the Atlantic. Sunrise is probably over California."
"Well, did we turn around into the sun?"
"Impossible," Pierre decided, "Unless we flew into the sun…."
The Learjet shuddered, the engines whined, and the interior lights flickered.
Howard cynically squinted, "And shat our pants! … Whoa! This is the shit!"
The Learjet's intercom sounded, too loud, with the Co-Pilot's biting voice: "Fasten your seatbelts Gentlemen… We've got, er, company… Hold tight…"
Chan blurted, "Now this is freaky!"
"Far out and freaky," Howard frowned, "But hey, probably some Swiss Cheese Bankers in a faster jet trying to get home first and take the first slice of the cake -- God Damn! And we just flew in their wake!"
The Learjet jolted, the bottle of scotch spun forward and was caught by Charles's hand, gripping the neck, the glass clinking with a silver cufflink.
Howard agitatedly buckled up his seat belt. "Or, we're just plain and simple screwed -- soon to be ready-made plankton scattered over the Atlantic. I don't get it."
The Co-Pilot's voice on the intercom was almost a whisper, bitingly alarmed, increasingly anxiousness, "Listen...! Something large is gaining and descending onto us! … We're on a steady course… Stay calm… It could be a stray, you never know, an airbus, an off course Russian bomber... Stay calm, we will see this through…"
Howard punched one fist into his palm. "D'oh! Chan, you knew! A war's started! How the hell did you know!"
"I didn't do anything!"
Howard seethed. Bright light outside. Stray bombers. Wars? Naval nuclear engagements. And they haven't touched down in London yet, and they probably won't have time for a decent meal, none of that Docklands crap. With a war, will the government leaders buy the World Rescue Bonds. Voted in by the peasants; flip a coin on that one. But the guys? He turned to check on them and they were, in strange unison, picking up the satellite phones attached to the custom red leather chairs, trying to dial out. This must be serous, Howard frowned, they're trying to call their loved ones. Serious. Pretty serious. Don't say anything stupid or insensitive in times of personal crisis, he recited what previous personal coaches had pleaded to him, seconds after he'd said, You're fired.
Chan shouted to Howard, "The phones are dead…."
"Oh… Well, guys, listen up: I'm one hundred percent sure that who ever you are trying to call, already knows that you love them."
"What?" Pierre, Abdul, Charles and Chan roared to Howard.
"Times of need, times of tenderness…. Even I humbly understand…"
Charles snapped, "Joke's over arse-fuck-U-S-A! We're trying to call our stock brokers!"
"I don't get it... They don't love you!"
"No you dumb fuck! I'm trying to issue global buy orders! If there's a war on, buy all military related stocks now! Guns, warships, smelters, tech!"
Howard sighed. "Why didn't I think of that… Sure, that's why I employed you all. Great work, Team, get on it."
In unison Pierre, Abdul, Charles and Chan slammed their phones down.
Pierre blinked at the bright light and scribbled madly in a pocket notebook, "There is a way out of this financial mess, we must buy in now: Tanks, jets, missiles, spare parts… Buy buy buy!
"Hmm. I think the Russians are way ahead of the curve on this one," Chan added, "Phone jamming from their strategic bombers."
"Are you crazy?" Howard unbuckled his seat belt. "The Russians can't even afford aviation gas because the global financial fuck crunch has fucked everyone up..."
Pierre toyed with his phone. "What ever. It doesn't work. Kaput. We've lost the golden minute."
"You girl guides," Howard straightened his jacket and made a slack salute, "I'm going up front. Things are shit: We could be late. We've got a really important meeting in London to see what financial candy we can lay on the table for this mammoth shit-fight-forum in four hours and everyone is fucking me around! Everyone! Bright lights. Dead phones! And you whining little bitches!"
Meanwhile…
The Pilot and Co-Pilot felt lethargic, slipping between blissful dementia and the epoch of an afternoon nap, lamely holding their controls, unable to correct their autopilot, for it was as much a zombie as they were, yet paradoxically acutely aware of the loss and the means to reverse it. The system beeped a few lights, back tracked, tried to reboot a few patches, but a larger all encompassing intelligence always beat it to the source. Meanwhile the pilots' weak mesmerized grins on their placid faces twitched with each new ray and wave of brilliant white light tingling their skin and warming their flesh. Subconsciously there was a shrill call from their most primordial of genes, demanding that they should resist to survive, yet trying to follow this hazed and hard coded call to action as they wished, proved cumbersomely ineffectual; a great imposing imprint controlled their brain waves, soothing them that they were in heaven, or the appearance of such was beamed into the minds, and that they should believe it. They barely registered the grunt and oomph as the cockpit door behind them was flung open.
"Permission to enter the bridge..." Howard shielded his eyes with one arm and bowed down, holding his breath, in awe at the Pilot's ability to drive through this solar blight on his schedule. "Oh, I'm here... Forgot my sunglasses. No problem…. Listen Flyboys, I don't want some 'Top Gun Maverick is my fairy-God-Father' excuse because we've got a very important meeting to attend to that will re-structure the world's debts and save everyone from an ass-fuck dust-bowl depression."
"Uh-huh," the Pilot's head bobbed, the voice either ex-fighter-pilot cool or stoner anesthetized. Howard speculated on the former.
He lowered his arm and peered at the light, it had no source, it came from all angles, reaching deep into the cockpit and even illuminating behind the Pilot's ears. Howard tapped his foot and yet the pilots made no effort to acknowledge his presence.
"Right," he seethed, "I hire, I fire, I hire, I fire. You two, I've never played Gordon Gecko with. For fuck's sake my life is in your hands, at least three times a week. That's more times I get to hold my own dick in my right hand. Left hand: Once every lunar eclipse. So, Chuck Yeager, was sup?"
The Pilot's chin dropped and a pool of saliva gushed from the corner of his lip and onto his crotch. "... It's ... Beautiful."
"I can't see it,"
The Co-Pilot euphorically groaned, "It's ... out of this world..."
"You two have an advantage: Sunglasses. I'm just blinded by this. Are we flying into the sun? Don't you have a flight plan that is well, you know, head east? London? Ring a bell? Big Ben? Monstrous experiments with 'Council Housing' to distort residential property values in a European Mega city? Tea, perhaps, with the Queen? Or if you prefer, a queen or two, in Soho?"
The Pilot's head bobbed again, as if jerked by a taunt string. "Must. Get. To. London."
"Good. We have agreement. But," Howard leant forward, between the pilots, and with one look through his squinted eyes tried to make sense of the array of dials and screens and quivering needles and red bands and notches and buttons and other little things that the pilots knew like the back of their hands. He stood back, swung around and shut his eyes, one hand groping forward for the door. "Sheezus it's bright… When you sort it out, and fast, get back to me. Roger that?"
"Roget. That." the pilots dully sang.
Howard stepped out of the cockpit and slowly closed the door, watching as the bright light beaming through the opening narrowed to a solid line and then nothing.
"Flyboy Prima Donnas," he cursed and sheepishly made his way back. In the cabin he sat down, crossed his arms and felt the ache of his creased brow. He was, he knew from a decade of lost youth to irrational exuberance for financial tools, moving through some heavy shit. So this, he gaped, must be denial; mentioned too many times, never understood, but once drunk it just gets better.
Abdul was still transfixed at the brightness out the window, and as a man of the desert, had sunglasses in his inner jacket pocket and was now trying to see into the white. He sighed, fidgeted with his cufflinks, and then grunted.
"So," Charles wagged his finger at Howard, "You made them sell their souls, breaking every rule in Civil Aviation Regulation, so we'd get to London on time and in one piece?"
Howard planted his elbows on his knees and let his head drop, his chin rubbing into his chest. "No... I think... I. Think…. I think I saw. Yes… No… I didn't see it… But… I think I saw a U. F. Fucking. O. Holy fuck. A U-F-O. Holy fuck, holy mother of all things fucked up: There you go. A U-F-O."
"Is that it? Not a dragon, or fairies, or trolls or a Russian bomber, but a standard, vanilla flavored U-F-O? Bright lights? Not the sun playing on the atmosphere, or clouds, or weather balloons, or whatever…"
Pierre giddily intervened, "Howard… Do you have burn-out?"
"No. Yes. It wouldn't matter if I did, I wish I did, but: what ever."
Abdul was sullenly transfixed at something out the window. "It shifts… It rolls around us…"
Chan closed his eyes and felt through the soles of his feet the vibrations of the jet engines, or as compared to an hour ago, the lack of them. Anomaly's demand explanations, he testily reminded himself, and fast!
Charles and Pierre shared a puzzled glance.
"I never 'wanted' to believe in little green men, it's just not on my list of 'stupid things to do today'," Howard hailed, "I'm a busy guy -- leave me alone!"
Abdul narrated his observations. "It's like we are in a light bulb, spinning…"
Chan added, "And we're not moving... We're not even flying. Decelerating velocity."
"Exactly." Howard slammed his fist into his palm. "So, be prepared for a dip into the Atlantic."
All five simultaneously cashed in their own observation and estimations that the parameters of their lives had shifted, and within seconds, something catastrophic had to occur.
"Now crash positions, please ladies." Howard yelled enthusiastically.
The Learjet was eerily quiet; no roar of the engines, just the breaths of its occupants.
Then came a grinding; granite on granite and gruesome, followed by high pressure hisses, best heard on deep sea diving submarines or high altitude bombers, belying a vacuum relieving itself, and then a dull numbness to replace all that preceded it.
Charles shuddered. "Bugger: We're falling to bits."
"No we're not," Chan shook his head. "We're still alive."
"Now I wonder if all that conspiracy theory crap T-V wasn't a waste of a time," Howard professed.
Pierre blurted, "It was, it is, because if what's happened is true, no T-V could ever truly project it -- this."
"What do you think is happening?" Chan asked directly to Pierre, but his vibrant eyes scanned them all.
The light streamed in and the Learjet jolted first at the nose, and then at the tail, as if it was wedged in a vice.
"We're rational guys, maybe we were drunk on a credit bubble and now hung over from the mother of all market dives, but we're still sane, right?"
"Sure," Charles said.
Howard bit his lip. "We're not airborne… We're inside something. Rationalize that!"
Abdul nodded. "That's right. Inside it."
"I hope they're going the same place we're going, and hey, we could be piggy-backing, hitching a ride, saving some gas!" Howard punched the air. "Hey you freaky bitches! I just want you to know, we have to be in London in four hours to cut the world's biggest deal of the twenty-first century! The President is there, waiting for us! You got that!"
The Learjet jolted. The fuselage shrieked, the joints creaked and the main door hissed, the handle slowly and evenly turning. The passengers braced themselves to be pulverized, or sucked out, or entombed under seven miles of cold Atlantic water and still double checked that they were buckled up. While the mismatch of last thoughts and prayers to un-discussed gods were assembling in their fried out minds, the door opened, as simply as if an invisible air hostess with four decades experience was at the helm. Shining in through the doorway was the light, flooding in, tingling the skin of its victims.
Howard's calm, steady and deep tone matched the pervasiveness of the light, "Wow! … If this is it then I want you all to know…."
Then from the light and through the doorway stepped a man, his shadow thrown into the cabin and falling at Howard's feet. The man beamed with the sincerity of a corporate Jesus, looked to Howard and then the others, and then closed the door, blocking the light.
He was dressed in a black suit with fine charcoal pinstripes. His shoes were handmade, probably Italian, yet his leather belt was unmistakably French. His white shirt was of a very fine thread, and even without the abundance of light outside, would have illuminated a cavern. The man's features were the asymmetrical nice-guy average; middle class promise, a touch of aristocracy in the eyes, and the cheekiness of a working class entrepreneur in his smile, all smoothed out by expensive retouching or surgery. He may have been beautiful, or just the guy with the lucky face. His hair was clean cut, as if, five minutes ago he was trading horse betting or tax avoidance tips with an exclusive downtown barber.
His voice was even, and accentuations were surprisingly (and faultlessly) warm: "Good afternoon Gentlemen."
The bankers faced the impossible with staunch aplomb, their calculator-like minds configuring a scenario that made sense of the intangible. It would be so much easier if it were an all night vodka, cocaine and quarterly bonus inspired dream.
Howard straightened his jacket and pensively shifted his sleeve back and glanced at the face of his wrist watch.
"I know this is going to be an out-of-world experience for us, but will it be long?" he asked, partly merry, yet still clearly forceful. "We're on our way to a very important meeting."
The man's arms levered up, his palms flat to the heavens. "Oh earthlings, do not be alarmed! I can assure you that in three hours and fifty three minutes you will get to exactly where you need to be."
Howard forced a chagrined smile. "Good: Exactly what I wanted to hear... Now, who the hell are you?"
The man smiled and offered his warm strong hand shake to all, "Yes -- introductions -- Where to begin! I'm Cagr."
"Cagr," Charles said, mostly amused, "Welsh?"
"No!"
"O-K." Charles's eyes zipped up and down the being. "Where did you get that suit?"
"And how did you come to 'capture' our jet?" Chan piped in.
"Sure, understood. I'm what you'd refer to as an 'Alien', that's arrived," Cagr raised an eyebrow to Howard, "in a 'U-F-fucking-O'. All that, and much more, is very easy to contemplate, even for an earthling, without projecting mind altering ice-breakers?"
"Sure. Break the ice," Howard smartly inclined his merry face to the visitor.
"Good... Now if you can digest the occurrence of another intelligent life form other than your own, and you haven't wet yourself with the ecstatic excitement or thrown yourself off the cliff of a salt mine because your fragile universe has just atomized before your gigantic earthling eyes, then you can accept the next wholly unforeseen but perfectly tangible reality…"
"We're with you," Howard nodded, "Not against you, continue…"
"Great!" Cagr sang, a touch too enthusiastically, and eagerly pressed on: "I am so glad to hear that! … Here's the good news: I'm really just like one of you -- 'One of the Team', and a Player. A swinging dick. A big cheese. A Market Maker. One of the few, one of the trusted."
"Right. Sure. A lot of information, but I'm a smart kind of guy." Howard then said distantly, "And you stroll into my little stone age canoe with tin wings and say you're one of us?"
"Earthlings, mocking what you don't understand -- when there is so much to learn and profit from!"
"Oh, we know… We know how stupid we are…. So cut to the chase, Cagr…. Who are you and what do you want? With us? Up here. Over the Atlantic." Howard found vague thoughts to float out of his mouth but no words came. Indeed, there was a curious mental ice-breaking changing gears in his cranium. All he could do was exasperatedly, listen.
Cagr emitted a hearty sigh. "For once in your lives, earthlings, spin the question on its head, the full one-eighty, and direct it to yourselves… Look in, not out…. Who are you. What do you want? And push aside questions of spiritual and natural harmony and get to the basics… Many things exist that will surprise and shock you. It's one of the laws of the universe: Over ninety-nine percent boredom and then zero point zero, zero, zero, zero seven percent absolute chaos. But brush that aside and get back to the mundane… Who are you, what do you do… And what do you want?"
Howard's eyes leveled on and probed each of his crew, the drinks in their hands, the mess of newspapers and the television screens; freeze framed on the running reports of a diving DOW and FTSE, the civil-unrest in some easily forgotten ex-colonial mud hut, and a cheesy advertisement for a loan. His eyes then zeroed in on Cagr.
"We're earthlings, and we're just business men, just doing what business earthlings do, I guess." Howard said dismissively, as a capitalist does to a struggling communist, or a communist to a capitalist he's executing.
"Correct, 'above average' earthlings, and traveling in exquisite style." Cagr observed the abstract painting, and unable to understand the mess, made an appraisal of the suited beings it looked over. "Very 'Top of the Food Chain' as they say."
Charles stood up and stretched, "Right you are... Nice suit -- Saville Row? Fancy a drink?"
"Yes, to both questions. I'm glad you asked… Now, back to the prime question… Who are you?"
Howard then stood up to fetch a drink for the visitor, ruminating on the parameters that had just popped open the door to his sterling inter-continental carriage. "Cagr, we're good old fashioned money lenders. That as a concept must be easy to accept, throughout your worlds, dimensions, what ever you travel through…. And this jet, although no match to what you've just stepped from, is convenient. It also happens to be mine. Do you have these, on Mars or on the Death Star, or what ever you breed on?"
Abdul's rueful eye and Chan's calculating mind sized up the alien.
"Gentlemen, I detect, a certain, fear? A rising paranoia of where all this is going, perhaps?"
"Yep, call it 'paranoia'. Awesome."
"You hide so much, when there is no reason," Cagr said, "I didn't have to be here, right here… There are other parties…"
"So, you could just walk away?" Howard snickered.
"Yes,"
Chan then said directly to Cagr, "We're top level financiers en-route to an important forum to sort out a potential global bankruptcy. For our boss, Howard, time is precious."
Cagr added, "And time is money?"
"Yes."
"Well relax. I have stopped time. We have enough time. I assure you, you will reach the gathering of prominent world leaders in London on time." Cagr's lips drew back forming a pinched smile, revealing expensive, pearly white teeth. "I guarantee it."
"Oh, I'm sure we will…" Howard handed him a drink. "Let's back track… We are humble money-lenders who decide that out of all the desperate and the honorable, the industrious and the liars, who gets money and who doesn't. You must know that?"
"Of course." Cagr sat down, observing the humans, smiling evenly at them.
"Why don't you tell us why you've come to us…" Charles asked, "Come on, out with it. This is not easy on us, so at least have a laugh with us lesser beings."
Cagr clumsily slurped at the scotch. "Nice... All around the universe they say: Civilization starts with distillation!"
"You sound like a well traveled man!" Charles noted and forced a laugh.
"Me, a man, no? I just look like this to put you at ease. My species looks like a… a jelly fish. Turned inside out. What you see before you is a facsimile of yourself, the human interface, communicating with you."
Abdul winced, "You are not you? You are not here, are you?"
"Oh but I am…. Insides it's the real me, trust me."
Howard grinned. "Don't be afraid Cagr: We 'respect' the real you -- no matter what you look like. One day you can show us the real you…"
"Sure it is possible... But there's simply more important things to prioritize."
"Of course."
"You see, gentlemen, I've come with an important offer, and impressions matter, not just to this little private party."
"So you're a salesman?"
"As much as you are."
"Yet you make the effort to appear like us because..." Howard feverishly ran his hand through his hair, "You're like us? And you're here to sell it, right?"
"Correct." Cagr flippantly tipped his head back, "Money lending. Selling the money…. You get it. I'm a financier… A deal maker… And now I've come, exclusively, to you."
"To make us a deal?" Howard asked, "When we're on our way to pull the global economy out of a debt-ridden under-valuation nightmare?"
"That could," Cagr ruefully interjected, "If mismanaged, throw pretty little planet earth back into the dark-ages... You mismanage one part, others soon follow; first economy, then social order, then conflicts, environmental catastrophe. Trust me, gentlemen, I've seen it. That's why I'm coming to you now, perhaps like an Angel Investor, with real wings?"
The bankers sat in a wired state of fear, the worm of morbidity draining and wriggling through their minds until full metamorphosis and the fluttering of opportunism whirled about in their minds.
Howard sat upright, nodding appropriately, retracting the grinning that portrayed the complexities and intoxicating opportunities.
Yet Abdul, fidgeting his fingers, locked on to Cagr and said sternly, "I know of your type… The desert and the universe are alike … Vast... Apparently infinite… And you, you appear when and where you want. Time and space are at your beckon. With your type, there are no deals, you take what you want, you will anyway…."
Cagr enthusiastically clasped his hands. "What progress! Yes, to be mistrustful is a valuable commodity... And oh how we all hark but to the old days… Buccaneering planet conquest by the laser cannon... But the universe has changed, changed from when I started out! Ho-hum! Boy could I tell you some savage stories. You earthlings harbor petty fantasies that 'non-humans' are either barbaric fiends or insanely intelligent sentient beings; yet of your brethren, your only friends in the universe other than space dust and un-imaginable dimensions, one sits before you, I tell you, and I am here to help you -- You! In your time of need!"
Howard shrugged from Abdul to Cagr. "So why approach us, right now… Or you have made yourself known to other 'earthlings'?
"Oh some grace, please! Isn't that the hallmark of our operations!"
"Grace, sure! And what is your operation?"
"My operation?"
"Exactly. What kind of guy are we dealing with? Give us the run down."
"Good point. Extremely tactful and appropriate... I started out buying and selling chunks of rocks in space, just like your moon, ornamental and orbital yes, but valuable, no. Then I moved on to cherry pick asteroid belts with rare minerals, then to re-finance small colonies, bonds for dying civilizations, injecting funds into trans-dimensional, and a few black hole rescue bonds. The usual ups, downs, cycles, growth, contraction. Seen it all. And now recently, I deal in planets teeming with life and opportunity yet heading for trouble. Niche market. Some call it 'collectivized catastrophe contracts', we just call it plain 'debt'.
"Whoa... You said 'planets with life'?"
"It's a growing market… Six percent, guaranteed."
"Wow. You do speak our language. And, so," Howard's brain burned with enthusiasm, "What's your rate of… Inflation?"
"Well, as the universe is expanding, exponentially, accelerating out to only God knows where; your God, my God, their God, God only knows which God knows and where the universe is going… It just bloats along… So inflation is a problem, but it's stable enough. But what can you expect? Reverse it all and we're all in a horrible predicament -- ultimately squeezed into the sixty fourth dimension -- a concept unfamiliar to most species I know of but we all see the annoyance."
"Sure…" Howard exhaled and checked his watch again. Indeed, time must have slowed. A second was now a New York hour. "Now, let's go back a bit… Your operation. Planets. Life… Where's the value for you, with earth? Isn't earth just a drop of chaos in the universe? How do you value earth, against what?"
"How do I value earth? It's not a rhetorical question... You're sitting on a goldmine here! Billions of years left, the odd environmental turmoil… Earth was a running joke in the syndicate but things have changed,"
"Like what?"
"In the universe there is an economy tied to nature, and intelligent species adapt to both. Well, I know on earth you have a nasty financial crisis. You're not alone -- there's been a shake up like that in this galaxy."
"This galaxy…" Howard's fiendish mind felt a pang of familiarity; this being was pitching from an all too familiar template. "But what does that have to do with earth?"
"Earth cannot be so isolated forever."
"That's a remote certainty."
"It's not reality. Anyway, I'm an alien, there's other aliens, laser-blasting biped mammals is so passé -- You get tired of the smell of burnt fur and organs: Get that through your puny earth brains. And then other species lobby for the protection of lesser species. Oh, the intergalactic bureaucracy has undone many a pioneer and saved many a lesser species. But, we play by rules."
Howard tried to imagine wholesale Sci-Fi slaughter, rules, and nodded astutely. "Sure -- but in war or business there are victors and losers."
"Sure, as there's two sides to every trade."
"Understood. So earth can benefit, somehow, from what you have?"
"Exactly."
"And there are rules."
"Recognized across most of this galaxy; the wider universe is another market but for now, let's reiterate... I have just made contact with you."
"Unless I wake up from a bad dream, correct."
"This is not a dream. I contacted you because I have clients."
"Clients?" Howard sat back, thinking, why wouldn't the freak from space have clients? The freak from space has clients, and the clients must be freaks. If they're all freaks they must be able to read my puny partly evolved homo sapiens brain pudding. Fuckers.
"Oh don't worry so hard Howard, we're not all fuckers…" Cagr said sincerely, "My clients are a lovely race, flush with cash and not knowing what to do with it, and would like to invest in earth. It's a simple option. That's why I'm here. They want to invest in earth."
"So, why now? Howard wailed.
"Wouldn't you?"

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Digital Gaia

A recent trend circulating various hubs of academia on the equator and the interconnecting orbital paths of sentient beings and colonies is the Mystery of the Decline of Western Civilization in the Early 21st Century.
Human and artificial intelligence have begun to posit contrasting theories based on what scant evidence was salvaged from the so called 'Information Age'. Many start with the prime question: Why did it collapse so rapidly? From there they follow a network of cause and affect. The schematic is best expressed by looking at a tree. One can explore from the multitude of roots right to the tips of the thousands of leaves, searching and linking networks that caused and leveraged a seismic upheaval. Yet the event was so catastrophic, that some radicals claim that an illness to this particular tree is not there to be discovered, because it was simply felled by an external source.
History is littered with such observations and incessant conspiracies, and while countless intelligentsia posses infatuations with past and thoroughly dead civilizations, the renewed interest in Early 21st Century Western Civilization has actually delivered some peer acclaimed progress into the investigation.
Of note is Digital Gaia.
Digital Gaia was seminal in the true Information Age that gained its full momentum and identity over a century after the end of Western Civilization, yet its design and parameters were formed at the closing of the 20th Century. It wasn't until generations of scholars and technicians (who we suspect harbored a morbid fascination with the digital excesses of Western Civilization) had re-wired the artificial intelligence mechanism of Digital Gaia, was it able to compute its past and marry it with the present. As Digital Gaia became self-aware, responsible and accountable (the wind-turbine and solar-panel-farms budgeted for supplying the mainframes with seamless energy went over budget, year after year, causing innumerable headaches to the New Revolution) it was a great relief that Digital Gaia could contemplate its use and perceived value.
Digital Gaia was put to much scientific use, proving to be scalable and efficient, and in its downtime worked on its own project: A complete re-analysis of the Fall of Early 21st Century Western Civilization.

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Invest in Earth

"Wow," Pierre said.
Followed by Chan's, "Totally Global, man!"
"Invest. In. Earth." Howard recited the concept, his eyes rolling skyward.
Then chased by Charles and Abdul's cautious glares at Cagr, who smugly jousted his chin out and his rosy cheeks up, baring the peroxide teeth, his steely little pupils staring the inquisitive duo down. The packaged contortion from the alien was not a modern subconscious psychological right hook, nor staple extraterrestrial mind abuse. It's symmetry and roots came from the age of apezoids on the plains, when the humanoid ancestors had little choice (of diet) and accelerated their brain growth by using their scrawny fingers and amazing flexible little opposable thumb to dig out, and then when still starving and close to extinction, tool sticks and rocks to scoop and bash out, the succulent brains from craniums of the carcasses of felled grazing animals left behind by superior, faster, furrier, four legged predators, who had neither the patience or the dexterity in their clawed paws for such a delicacy. Cagr, in his learning of humanoid behavior, had practiced the primal smile, indeed there was a lesson about it, drawn from some scholarly alien race's stolen notes on earth (and copied without remuneration to the original aliens) relating how when the first alpha ape had fashioned a long pointy stick, carried that between his teeth to the fresh un-attended carcass of some mauled to the bone gazelle, shooed away the vultures, sat on the ravaged cranium and dug out morsels of brain with the stick, licked it, then brandished the stick at his ape clan, and delivered the first ever 'signal of superiority smile'. The observing alien scholar was quite surprised and recorded that tiny milestone. Each race and culture had its own version, yet in terms of earth habits, Cagr could only honestly translate the signal of superiority smile as a 'fuck you' smile, and the funny thing was that it worked. He flashed it once, and these supposedly super humanoids readily absorbed the signal that fear of the frightening concept of some alien race investing in earth was to be avoided, and to focus on the crumbs of what the exotic offer may leave you, if you were lucky.
Meanwhile for Howard, this gave him a few milliseconds of un-monitored, as far as he hoped, free thought. He was unhinged at the freaky mind reading, and switched to his default work mode. He was a true split personality sociopath, that much he knew, hid, and enjoyed. And he did have two minds, so therefore, chemically he supposed, two brains, two sets of neurons pinging away. So, one was always portraying the Howard they knew and loved, and the other was the Inner Howard, whom the Inner Howard snickeringly referred to as the Inner Fuck. Let the freaking alien work out which Howard was in control, because as long as both were working in tandem, like parallel processors, then the freaky alien had less chance of reading both.
So, Howard's teeth beamed, trying to out shine the freak. "Welcome, Cagr. Come on down and invest in earth!"
"We are here to help you!" Pierre added, cringe worthy yet poetic.
"Grand!" Cagr said. "I knew I could trust you... So many have studied earth! We could have jumped in when the Romans or the Chinese had it all… Yet humanity had to grow, to brew problems and solutions, and now we see earth as a mature market."
"Mature: one hundred percent." Howard's hand fluttered into the air. "So, how do 'the clients' feel about earth?"
"They're interested." Cagr said, partially presenting a frown that the deal could fall through, "We have one client in mind. But, where there is one there are some and then more… That's the nature of competition."
"And what do you, or they, want exactly, by way of investing in our little virgin patch of ass and grass, earth?"
Cagr's face screwed up. "Just let my inner processors interpret that multi-layer description… Oh! You do flatter your little blue jewel…. Well, truth be told, my client is an old cultured civilization and have access to some of the hardest currency in the Milky Way, and are willing to exchange technology -- things you can hardly believe! My Boss, Ebitda, said investing in earth would be a bit premature, but you know what, I think we're ready for it."
"I can say that most definitely, we're ready for it..."
"Yes," Pierre added, "The exchange between societies is how civilizations grow..."
Chan excitedly interjected, "Imagine the range of partnerships…."
"Yes," Abdul grinned, "I too would like to know more..."
"This is great news!" Cagr downed his scotch. "My client, the Klongs,"
"Klongs." Howard whistled. "They're called the Klongs? That's their name?"
"Kind of. I'll be serious… Even I can't pronounce their name. It's, um… Not just multi-syllable, you need three earthling voice boxes fused into one just to say 'Hello'."
"Oh…. Well…" Howard tasted the word: "Klongs… If they really want to do business on earth, they may need some branding."
"Branding?" Cagr scoffed.
"Yeah," Howard tipped his head back, portraying the corporate guy, impromptu and wildly spontaneous, donning the creative brain-storming hat, rattling off: "We can change their name a bit, give them a special fuzzy friendly logo, make a theme song; perhaps something classic with a jazzy cool wash over, and make up a background story tied to some biblical feel good parable pre-hardwired into the average consumers mind. Simple."
"But there's no time for that cosmetic process in times of dire consequences."
"But, the word Klong…" Howard lazily flapped his hand about, "It make me feel… Violated."
"I assure you, they're a 'nice' species. They love fresh oxygen. They love your climate, a bit warmer, a bit cooler, Global Warming, Global Freezing, it doesn't matter. They understand oceans -- they've got two hundred millions years experience in Ocean Management. And they don't breed like rabbits. That's good. Extremely slow breeding cycle. They've very generous too. And they don't eat with hands or feet! Believe me, that helps during negotiations."
"Sure. O-K…. And what do they want? An exchange of knives, forks, chopsticks?"
"Ha, you will get on with them so well!" Cagr slapped his thigh and cackled. "They want to diversify; expand their Galactic Milky Way portfolio… Hedge themselves on a blue planet, take on a bit of risk -- earth is new territory -- and make contacts. You couldn't ask for a better investor. And you know what the good bit is… They don't want to 'buy out' all of earth! Ha! That ruins a planet… They just want to buy into a bit of earth… Maybe an island, or a country or two… Maybe a continent… To share with the hosts..."
Charles cautiously offered, "I'm familiar with this mentality…"
Then Chan's voice hit an octave, "I see the potential. One-hundred percent."
Allowing Abdul to say, his voice full of base, "Yes, the Middle-East is a good place to start."
"Great. Totally great," Cagr said, "And the reality is, for the Klongs, it's the 'neighborhood' that counts. A sense of community."
"Community: Sure!" the Inner Howard crowed. "The Klongs would be right at home in the U-S of A."
"Possibly... Yet the Klongs are cautious, it's in their nature, and they're interested in 'options'."
"Then tell them to invest in Asia!" Chan said gleefully, "We can make you a great deal… We've got a young population, highly motivated, and an average growth rate above that of the earth and the universe combined."
"So promising!"
Yet Abdul drummed on, "No… You tell them, come to the Middle East… The beautiful deserts, the oil under the sands… And the Arabs have their fingers in so many of the world's pies it makes you fat just thinking of it."
"That kind of leverage is tempting…"
Until Pierre calmly explained, "But Europe has the cutting edge technology that leads the world into new frontiers. Imagine connecting the Klongs with Europe -- a marriage of technology and expertise."
Howard stomped his foot. "Oh no… You have to try the United States -- the world's largest economy and only superpower. The U-S runs the world…"
Pierre corrected him, "Pre-crash, perhaps..."
And then Chan, "And not according to my Chinese and Indian friends…"
Abdul clapped them on, adding, "So many mighty nations are equal now, and it's trust that counts, and honor."
Cagr said resolutely, "All this is so true!"
"Have the Klongs ever considered an exclusive agreement with one country, therefore limiting their exposure but gaining an amazing leverage?" Charles asked innocuously.
"There are options."
"Yes," Charles said, "Let's use, for example, a strong nation like the United Kingdom?"
Howard feigned choking. "United What?"
"Ha! The British sense of humor!" Abdul sneered.
"I am serious… What other country in modern times had a proper empire?"
Pierre said, "The French?"
"Ha! This is not the twentieth century!" Abdul growled, "Your European Elitist sense of humor! Who will kill me with laughter first? Ha!"
Howard then squared up to Cagr, "You know, and the Klongs know, that who they ally with on earth will possibly rule the rest of earth. Have you ever heard the Roman saying, 'Divide and Conquer'?"
"That old ruse! We taught the Romans that saying! Otherwise they would never have dragged themselves out of their orgies."
"Oh."
"What you must understand is that an exchange of inter-planetary cultures may lead to a fundamental shift in earth's geo-politics…" Cagr's thin smile widened. "My clients know that, you know that… But we can work to alleviate it. As I said, you get one partner in, then you can get another for a different territory. Besides, we've all seen monopolies rise and fall!"
"Sure." Howard made a serious face, eyeballing the alien. "What exactly are these Klong offering?"
"Well…. First and foremost, is friendship."
"Because… of a shortage of friendship on earth?"
"No... Not because of that. Anyway, the Klongs like humor…"
"That's a start."
"What really stands out is that they have amazing renewable energy technology…"
"We're already working on that,"
"They've invented everything you need."
"What about on a financial level?"
"Excellent economic insight."
"Sure! Earth needs more of that!"
"But it's an amazing deal, available for a short time only, there's other planets that fit the criteria. Do you know how often we hop across the galaxy to offer these deals to infant civilizations?"
"Hmm," Howard's index finger tapped at the apex of his chin, "When someone is desperate?"
"No! This is history!" Cagr's Cheshire cat grin maintained its symmetry. "This is the next level of planetary evolution! This is investing in earth! I can line you up with something amazing!"
"All that is sweet can easily turn sour…"
"It's not only beneficial to one of your regions, but to all."
"Sure," Howard nodded to his team, "It could be a shared experience, like... Reverse gang-rape?"
"Perhaps you earthlings don't understand… Each of you could become extremely wealthy,"
"But we already are."
"Or, were?" Cagr smugly affirmed.
Howard's laughter was blunt and bitter, "It doesn't matter. We're bankers. You think we do this for 'soul'? We do it because we're geeks at heart who like crunching numbers. Period. And Porsches."
Cagr sighed. "What you don't understand, Gentlemen, is where your safe little earth is heading. You have pollution. You have environmental mismanagement. You have unfeasible societies abiding to un-realistic ideals. You will have catastrophes, you will have conflict, and what you have now, whatever you do, will change tomorrow."
Howard felt his body relax, and the two parts of his mind convulse, entangle and then slither to their respective hemisphere. He glared into Cagr's too clear eyes, "Are you, politely, diplomatically, or plain skull-fuckingly, threatening us?"
Cagr's eyelids were fixed, his measured words immediate and delivered with a waspish resonance: "I don't need to threaten planet earth or your miniscule race -- you've done that yourselves -- and that includes each of you, personally..."
Then Cagr turned to each of the bankers and from his eyes shone not a light but raw data, beaming visions, smells, spiraling emotions and dread. He narrated, his voice coming from within their minds, and the being before them calmly observed their malleable expressions:
"Abdul, your people have devastated your precious deserts and tribes."
The bankers' shared vision was lifted straight out of networked television, that of oil fields burning and conquering the sky with stains, displaced starving refugees trudging over arid lands, suicide bombers preparing themselves and praying to the big guy upstairs. Like walking into an advancing whirlwind, the bankers felt the blast, the furnace of the desert and the 2nd degree burns of the flames and then a bottomless numbness; probably death, as felt by a soul that actually wasn't engineered to register it.
"And Chan, you organized one of many deals to supplement the war chests of dictatorships, that without funding, may have suffered to endure that flimsy flower called democracy,"
Now they smelt the sweet jungle, felt insects crawling above and under their skin, and saw third rate soldiers of some too-poor-so-ignore dictatorship rounding up poor protestors, dragging them down a narrow path into a clearing. Some of them were teenage landmine victims and all were forced to dig shallow pits.
"And Charles, the scion of a once mighty empire, you look over the ruins of the world and wonder if change was in your hands, what would you really want to do? What was achieved? The Romans died out but live on, but the legacy of the British Empire remains, distorted, and culpable."
Then the cold, wet and salty wind of the sea flushed through their nostrils and they saw 18th Century Redcoats firing a barrage of lead at a charging Maori tribe. As the volley receded a new vision came, still the working of an advanced species masterminding the ultimate head fuck, yet somehow proving a comical point. The banker's minds were filled with the vision of an obese middle-England housewife and her fatty children sitting down to eat and watch television; a soulless series on soulless individuals conspiring to soulless activities, all set on a beachside town across the world in Australia.
"Yet Pierre, it is the same for Europe, a pretty landscape does not conceal the sinister activities that made it so wealthy."
In a nameless mine in Africa, Negros toil under the sun and expire, and overlaying the vision was an old man in the West kept alive by the marvels of modern medicine and technology, admiring his new metallic refrigerator, the centerpiece of his new kitchen.
Cagr continued, resolute and unforgiving, "And America, Howard, is no promised land for anyone of any race or religion. "
Now the bankers endured the most squeamish vision, the most appalling and crucifying, all the more hurtful because the vision implied that they were doomed to walk among it for eternity: that of the trailer trash of the U.S. Mid West. There were the mentally weak, the over eaters, the TV addicts, and fools and the fooled, the no-incomes-no-jobs-no-assets, milling about on empty streets staring at each other for guidance that could never come.
Howard, to his own surprise, wailed like a baby, "Nooooo! You came across the galaxy for those peasants!"
"I can always arm them," Cagr soothed him, "But that's a meaningless end…"
The final vision was stereotypical, petty yet relevant, and quite placid: A top-shot executive, not yet thirty-five and balding, in a corner office overlooking Manhattan, his face weathered by burn-out, crying into his consumer morning ritual, the ubiquitous take-away Starbucks coffee. There was the smell of lingering tumors, impending divorce, last week's demotion following a lost promotion, and the grave understanding that some miniscule mistake had led to the ultimate career screw-up this century; from here on this professional life was over, and even the banker's wondered if they could survive the options; menial clerk, school bus driver, dusty farm laborer and anything else they could do in a world that no longer required their deceptions.
Cagr's candid chagrin dropped in like a Game Show queue: "So Gentlemen! Think not what your earth can do for you, but what you can do for your earth!"
The five bankers' eyes sprang open, startled and relieved to still be in the plush Learjet, yet the shock lingered as the vision of Cagr before them failed to disappear.
Howard wiped a tear from his eye, sniffed and laughed, "That shit, those dreams you zapped in our impressionable three-pound and eighty-percent water minds, that all happens anyway... It exists and will exist irrespective of what you want us to do."
"Yes it will. But now you know you can make a difference."
"A difference?" Howard scoffed. "But it doesn't affect us,"
Cagr's cold eyes anchored on Howard. His lips were drawn down but his voice and vision again intruded into the Banker's brains:
"Are you so immune from the world's problems, are you so blind as to your own weakness?"
The perception was clear. The five bankers were dressed in their usual banker attire, but dirty, stained and torn. They were walking down a familiar street; wide and regal, stately, yet during an emergency. Helicopter buzzed overhead. Sirens wailed. The bankers felt vulnerable for it was dark, foggy and they were surrounded by wild yells. A tide of hoodlums ran towards them. Behind them were charging horses. It was the beginning of the beginning of pure anarchy.
Howard screamed, "O-K! Enough of the depressing rotten-carrot and shortening-stick E-S-P mind fuck!"
"You need this wake up call!" Cagr protested.
"To hell with your wake up call! To hell with your alien powers. You make me sick: Are you here to do business or mentally torment us?"
"Business, in your world, is threat, deception and reward."
"Fucking A. Then why don't you just tell me, what's in it for us?"
Cagr contemplatively furrowed his brow. Perhaps he had taken the inverse incentive too far, but pitching to these far out life forms was not a perfect science. Animals. And now his prey were raising their voices.
Chan chanted, "Yeah -- some salesman you are! Psychoanalytical asshole!"
"Exactly!" Charles roared, "Show some class when you're dealing big stakes!"
Abdul cleared his throat and pointed his finger right between Cagr's eyes, "How are we meant to sell our souls in such a depressing atmosphere!"
Cagr shrugged. "You guys are 'totally' right... I went too far, too far… I understand…."
"You, supremely intelligent from the other side of the galaxy, 'understand'?" Howard's hands covered his face for a second and then flapped about in the air, "Oh thank god! We get it! Just tell us: What the hell is in it for us!"
"What's in it for you?" Cagr suavely smiled, "Well, my friends… Gentlemen, where do I begin? ... Have you really seen the stars? Have you ever thought that if heaven on earth is somewhere above the clouds, what if I were to take you, to the edge of this galaxy to look over the universe -- all expenses paid -- and offered you roles that would take your career to new towering heights. You wouldn't' just be Global Financiers... You'd be Financiers of the Universe... Real Bankers of the Universe."
The blood had drained from Howard's face enough, he had had horrors impressed on his mind and now he could clearly see Nirvana, the next plateau, the big game, the ballsy untouchable sphere that many trekked to, yet few (earthlings particularly) had the magic access card to.
"Now we're talking," he sang loud and clear, "Lay it all on the table and we'll read the fine print later."
Cagr stepped up and shook hands with Howard. "Welcome aboard, it's so good to have you along, you are a credit to your race and your planet," he said gallantly and then wearily sighed, "But to really get into this deal, you know, to make it move along, to separate you guys from all the other players that think they're right for this role,"
"Yeah," Howard panted.
"You've got to impress my boss."
"Your boss? Aren't you some super alien being billions of years ahead of us, and you still have a boss?"
Cagr palmed his hair back. "Hmm -- yeah. It's a fundamental pain in the 'you know what' that's hard to shake, even for some of the most advanced species."
Howard frowned. Sure, everyone has a master somewhere, why would a trans-galactic banker boy be any different?
"You know," Cagr said indifferently, "It's so good we were able to connect, and get to the point, so quickly. We thought it could take days of angling to get the message through to your kind. And we're short of time, no fault of ours,"
"Our kind?" Pierre asked with a narrowing scowl.
"Human kind, but your 'higher intelligence than the average' kind really helps."
"Oh,"
Howard laughed. "Don't worry, we'll just take it as a compliment, right boys?"
"Not much choice," Charles stiffly crossed his arms.
Howard slowly turned to look out the window. The light out there was so bright, calming, warming and… He cleared his throat. "Cagr, what ever you deal makers are, I have to admit that you've mastered the dark art of subtle psychological persuasion. It could be heaven out there. Are you creating every god-fearing, mortal human's wet dream out there: Oh. My. God. There is a heaven out there, up here, and if you look closely you can drink all day, smoke all night, and the place is crammed with delicious booty gagging for some,"
"Howard!" Charles barked, "Enough!"
And then there was darkness. Someone, possible Howard, let out a yelp, and then light faded back through the windows, and even the interior lights of the Learjet flickered back to life.
"So, who has got their little hand on the big light switch?" Howard asked into the point in space approximately twenty centimeters before his forehead and level with his crown. "Huh?"
"I said: You have to impress my boss!" Cagr tersely rounded on Howard.
"Oh. Sure."
Then came a hiss and a jolt and the door opened. For a fraction of a second was either weightlessness or a jolt, and a gush of pale cloud billowed in. It filled the cabin and Howard waved his arm about, yet it cleared, sucked back out through the door, revealing in the middle of the aisle, standing with the calmness of an air hostess, Cagr's Boss.
The bankers sat straighter and keener.
"Ebitda, welcome to earth!" Cagr sang obediently.
Ebitda's hands were meekly pressed together in front and above her navel, her body poised somewhat like a swan before a dive. She smiled, revealing the usual array of teeth, but quite normal teeth; no Hollywood style bridge-work, no dazzling white. Her skin was fair and sun blessed, her hair auburn with lighter tips, thanks to more of that sunshine she seemed to bathe in so much. Her eyes were neither brown not blue, but something in between: a grey or a hazel, and with a certain sparkle betraying the power to with one kind look heal the collective melancholy of a communist country or extinguish a bluish sun. Her attire was one notch above, Pierre noted, what even the European aristocracy would commission. What they had or could design, she had it better; as if she had been to the 25th Century, shopped hard and high for the best and latest materials and classical cuts and come back to stroll the catwalk with a stride that seemed to scream: Watch my back; eat my dust. Her face (and the refined structure of her body) was a touch robotic, yet with a healthy hint of ice-queen, and a slightly protruding forehead.
The head's slightly protruding frontal lobe, Howard assumed, was a nice touch to offset the possible bimbo factor. Chan, on the other hand, saw the whole package as a blend of the 'hottest to walk the earth' averages. This alien broad was sexy by design, and the forehead, the Tweety Bird superior processor enhancement, seemed like the master's stroke: All beauty must be flawed for it to be truly adored.
"Gentlemen," Ebitda said, her voice smooth and straight to the point, "I'm impressed that you have grasped our existence and our purpose so well, and thank you Cagr, where would I be without you?"
Cagr grinned impressively.
"So," Howard cast his hand from Boss to Underling, "Are you one of the Klongs?"
Ebitda emitted a slick giggle, "They haven't mastered inter-galactic flight like we have -- but one of their representatives is puttering along into your solar system as we speak… While Cagr was so eloquently updating you on the situation before you, I was briefing some of earth's leaders on their options. Now that I am here, is there anything that could be further clarified?"
Howard looked to Charles who looked to Abdul who looked to Pierre who looked to Chan who looked to Abdul who looked to Pierre who executed the perfect Gaelic shrug to Howard, a non-committal rise of the shoulders and arms, with both palms limply open to few suggestions.
"Perhaps…. I want," Howard stated, "To know about you."
"Sure." Ebitda said. "I am the leading financial controller of this quadrant of the galaxy -- what do you expect, a balding fat man in pinstripes? Now, listen carefully: Before your earth falls, you can pull it from the precipice. In the higher echelons of earth leadership there is consensus, now we just need the players to make the deal."
"Wow. You really do your homework."
"Thank you. It was important for Cagr to break the ice."
"As charmingly as he could."
"Excellent. Let's get back on track."
"Fine by me," Howard rattled off but drew back, "There's one thing... Why us?"
"Why not? I've been following the progress of your fledging investment bank Galactic Investments and have processed all your transaction data, including the data of deals you avoided. Sometimes what you acquire is as important as what you don't."
"Well, thanks for the compliment." Howard tingled under a saccharine smile.
"Yes, yet for your talents, you, and a network of global partners, are partially to blame for creating the mess that has hemorrhaged your precious little free market system, and I am sure you, and your partners, can put it back together again."
"Sister, are you getting Bolshevik with me?"
"On the contrary," Ebitda's cold eyes danced over all of the bankers, "I'm getting progressively capitalist. But anyway… Time is infinite for some, yet punishing for the rest… And if you don't think you're up to the gigantic task, well I shall impose this opportunity on another team of well-connected, highly-influential and extremely motivated team of international financiers with global cultural representation. Do you have any in mind?"
Howard cuffed his mouth and looked sideways to Charles, brandishing a glare punctuated by a perfectly expected involuntary blink.
Charles swallowed hard at the sight of the pre-coded wink (they'd used the 'reverse-swallow-hole' tactic in the final quarter of hard-closing on mergers and accusations for five deals with a sixty percent success rate) and murmured, "Perhaps… Perhaps you could try for a team that is a little older, and, um, more worldly for this 'outer-worldly' experience."
Ebitda extended her index finger into the air. "Correct. Yet your acute awareness of your limitations is respected and do not forget who you are representing; while the 'West' may be saddled with an aging population, the rest are not; a young global population needs young lions as leaders."
Howard clapped once. "You win. Hands down. So what is it you want?"
"I have organized a secret meeting of some of the smartest and most influential minds from the earthling race. We meet in Frankfurt. You will tell the gathered leaders of government and businesses that there is an option, radical and to some frightening, but it reflects the maturity of humanity in face of catastrophe."
Howard winced. "Interesting… But what, exactly?"
"A transaction that can pull earth out of a dire financial orbit."
Pierre interrupted her, "Excuse me, but is anyone explicitly seeking help from you?"
Cagr cut in: "Not yet, but would you rather wait until you sank deeper? Or a less benevolent species stopped by?"
Ebitda continued. "Earth is no longer a secret. We've come, now will others come. You don't know when they will be on their way and why."
Howard made a snide laugh, corrected himself with a clearing of the throat, and leaned a few inches forward, enough in the confined cabin to make his presence felt, asking: "You're positioning us to accept a 'first' offer?"
"There is no first offer -- there are options. These options you will communicate to the real people that hold the future of humanity in their hands."

 END OF SAMPLE CHAPTERS

 

And now some Websites having a laugh about the Financial Crisis...

An excellent hysterical collection of multi-media tirades ridiculing the financial crisis.

Jim Henley’s one-liner: “Wouldn’t it save administrative costs if I just started giving my money to random rich people?

A collection of Jokes about the financial crisis

Eight of the Best Jokes About the Financial Crisis - from the United Kingdom, Daily Telegraph


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