Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 1 - The Battle of the Banks

For whatever reason, MacAdam and the baron are wearing gray suits similar to the Selachee bankers'.

The four of them sat there at the table for a bit, just looking across it at one another. Jonnie was reminded of some gray wolves he had once seen, prowling back and forth, eyes alert, teeth ready, sizing each other up before they plunged into a snarling, slashing fight to the death.

Except the bankers are all sitting politely instead of pacing with bared teeth. But I can appreciate Hubbard's attempt to make finance sound exciting.

So the great battle of wits and numbers begins when MacAdam and von Roth ask for an extension for the deadline, citing economic upsets. The Selachee refuse, but the humans press on, describing how their questioning of alien prisoners revealed that most of the beings who attacked Earth were conscripts who are reluctant to return home, for fear of getting dragged into revolutions and unemployment and famine. Mac and the baron have even teleported to some of these worlds to witness things firsthand.

"There is economic chaos!" said the baron. "When Intergalactic Mining Company ceased to deliver metals, the scarcity caused their prices to soar."

Because none of these aliens can be bothered to dig up their own iron ore, apparently. I also have to wonder what these guys have been building that requires so much materiel. I mean, we've been spending all of human history building swords and guns and cars and whatnot, and to my knowledge there hasn't been any panic about running out of steel anytime soon. Is Earth the only mineral-rich planet in sixteen universes? Have none of the aliens figured out recycling?

"Factories are closed. People are out of work and rioting. To distract them, the governments are planning wars that are not popular."

Yes, when faced with economic disaster, start up a nice, expensive war to make things all better. Free tip for alien governments: you want to distract your unemployed citizens? TV. Or even better, give 'em free internet.

"To get metals to build weapons, they are even commandeering peoples' cars and the pots and pans of housewives."

Yes, all of the galaxies' races use basic metals for their wargear, as opposed to crystals or wood or bioengineered weaponized symbiotic organisms or psychic powers or whatever. And no matter what universe you go to, housewives stay in the kitchen.

Mac and the baron are on a roll, and reveal that a disgruntled former Galactic Bank employee told them how Dries made some high-risk loans to some high-ranking Psychlos, secured by property on the Psychlo homeworld. Now that the Psychlos are all asploded and no longer paying interest on funds or transfer fees, the Bank lost its main source of income, and Dries himself is trying to repossess Earth to avoid bankruptcy. This prompts an outburst from Dries where he quotes an aphorism about swimming and fins, just to remind us that he's a shark.

The human bankers still aren't done, and talk about how without teleportation there are now Selcahees scattered across countless worlds and universes, totally stranded, making their family members riot. No mention is made of how without teleportation there is no way for these transdimensional banks to communicate with each other and therefore function as a company. By all rights the bank should have collapsed months ago. Oh, and part of the bank's deal with the Psychlos was that all its cash reserves would be stored on Psychlo, which is now a sun.

The humans' next trick is to produce a copy of the Psychlo Imperial Royal (sounds redundant) Charter of the Intergalactic Mining Company, which has clauses stating that in event of an emergency a head of planet may dispose of company property. Then they reveal Terl's contract, selling the entire IMC and its nearly two hundred thousand worlds to the Earth Planetary Bank. MacAdam and the baron have even taken it to the Hall of Legality in the Selachee capital to put it on file. And while the aliens are still choking on that, the human bankers offer to buy two-thirds of the Galactic Bank, a controlling interest.

The baron said, "You'd have assets, then. You could back your currency with reserves which you don't now have. The Psychlos never let you own planets, but you can now. We will turn over eleven planets that are worth sixty trillion credits for ownership of two-thirds of the Galactic Bank, all its assets, debts, everything."

Lord Voraz was wavering. But he had not said yes.

MacAdam leaned back easily. "And we will put 199,989 planets and all company assets into a trust to be managed by the Galactic Bank. That gives you back your fund transfer profits. That lets you lease out mining rights. That surely saves your bank!"

Let's dwell on this for a moment. The humans, who have only recently freed themselves from an alien overlord, who so bitterly complained about having their fate decided by all-powerful outside forces, are now signing over entire worlds, two hundred thousand of them. And we know that some of these worlds had previous inhabitants held in servitude by Psychlo "regencies."

There's no thought that these previously-subjugated people might own their home planets, or have a right to self-determination. There's not a flicker of interest from Jonnie or any others about the issue of indigenous races, or if they ought to make an exception for such worlds. Jonnie's mostly worried about the other alien races attacking Earth.

Well, there's still twenty or so chapters. I'm sure Hubbard will explain how his heroes aren't selling aliens into slavery.

The Selachee are happy with the idea, but say it'd take a board meeting to ratify such a deal. MacAdam and the baron, of course, have already secured and filed the directors' signatures, and even have a pre-typed resolution for Lord Voraz to sign. Dries interrupts with questions about his money, but MacAdam breezily explains how there was over two hundred trillion credits ready for transfer before Jonnie blew up the Psychlo teleportation network last year, which wound up in the Earth Planetary Bank's account at the Galactic Bank and can be used to pay off Earth's mortgage. So I guess if a bank is about to transfer your paycheck, but it suddenly can't deliver it for a year, it gets to keep it? I don't understand this at all, but I'm sure it's legal if our heroes are doing it.

The only remaining matter is the Bank's reliance on teleportation, and Lord Voraz asks for Jonnie's help. And with that this bloated chapter comes to a sudden end.

The short version: the Galactic Bank was broke and on the verge of collapse, but Terl's phony contract let Earth sell off hundreds of thousands of worlds to take control of it, bail it out, and pay off Earth's debt. Yay banking.

Back to Part Twenty-Nine, Chapter Seven

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