tirsdag 29. mars 2016

The Curse of the Gold

by Robert Wood
The sheer cliffs of dark economic futures closed about the Investor like the sides of a trap. He did not like the way their jagged peaks loomed against the few faint numbers which glittered like the eyes of spiders from the dual computer screens.

Neither did he like the chill, uneasy numbers that seemed to whistle across the black Logitech keyboard and prowl among his papers on the desk.
  – Do I disturb the profound meditations of the nobly successful Investor Dresden? purred a soft voice.
  The Investor started and reached for the Esc-key before he recognized the person of the Business Strategist Jin, wrapped to the pharynx in a voluminous shirt of pea-green velvet.
– Perhaps the profitable Investor is unable to sleep? murmured Jin, appearing not to notice the Investor’s ungracious hand movement. – Is it the heavenly gold again?
  – Yes, growled the Investor, something about these accursed graph trajectories. 1220 dollars for an ounce of gold is unnatural! Some uncanny premonition keeps me wakeful when, after a long day’s trading, I should be as weary as a stripling after his first night’s drinking too much moonshine.
   – I think I understand the misgivings of our excellent Investor. Nor are such disquieting emotions unusual in this – ah – this legendary building. They say that quite a few employees have been encouraged to kill themselves after failing to make money for your glorious Investment Company.
   – I wish I had the key to the gold futures of tomorrow, snarled Dresden. Then my bonus would be enough Venture Capital to establish a Company of my own.
   The Business Strategist surveyed the Investor for a moment with an oblique, contemplative gaze. Then, as if having reached some private decision, he replied: - Company legend states that a magnificent treasure of precious metal information is locked up in the Main-Frame computer. The Vice Chairman of the Corporate Responsibility Committee died of an unforeseen heart attack. The encrypted password was unfortunately cremated with him.
  The Investor picked up his ears.  - A golden, encrypted file, he? Has nobody ever been able to break the code and exploit this treasure?
– No, noble Investor, the precise file-location of the trove is not known – save to one man.
  The Investor’s interest was quite visible now. - To whom? he demanded bluntly.
  The Business Strategist smiled. – To my unworthy self, of course.
  - Bear and Bull! If you have the encrypted key, why haven’t you cracked the golden file yourself?

Riches in Chains
Jin spread his small, long-nailed hands. – I need a trustworthy man to guard my back against any snooping board members, security guards or employees that might approach. Moreover, a certain amount of calculating assistance will be required. A gentleman like me lacks the mathematical insight you investors are capable of. And besides, being our Company’s supreme fund generating expert you do not share the common employees’ superstitious terror of The Board. Am I correct in my assumption?
  The Investor grunted. - I fear neither god, man nor a Wall Street collapse, and least of all the wrath of a geriatric board of obese has-beens. Speak on, Business Strategist.
  The Strategist sidled closer, his voice dropping to a scarcely audible whisper.    – Then, here is my plan. As I have stated, this person approached you because I thought you might be he whom I have sought. The task will be light for one of your mathematical capabilities, and my Kingston DT HyperX Predator memory stick includes the encryption-key. Let us go this instance, and within an hour, we shall be richer than either of us has dreamed!

Profits to Die for
Jin’s seductive, purring whisper awoke the lust for profit in the Investor’s greedy heart, but a residue of caution restrained him from immediate assent.
–What about surveillance in the server room?  Surely, we shall need help to power down The Defender Surveillance system!
  Jin shook his sleek head. – Not so, honorable ally! The surveillance system will power down in due time. I have seen to that. Silicon Valley, Grade A military software. And, as I have previous stated, the Main-Frame is said to enchain precious gold- and platinum information. Since the secret is mine alone, I am entitled to choose first, and since I prefer platinum to gold, I choose the white metal. You can download the numerical quantity that represents the yellow metal.

It took no more urging to persuade the Investor to Jin’s scheme. The bonuses of the Investment Company were in his eyes meager. And the Investor’s recompense for his arduous service to date had been many empty words of honor and precious little in his account.
- I will fetch two portable terabyte-disks to store the Golden Files we download, crooned Jin. – We should leave this room separately, so as not to arouse suspicion. Whilst I get the disks, you can take the encryption key on my Kingston. Go to the Main-Frame physical input station and I’ll meet you there.
– Why should you entrust me with the encryption key, just to get a couple of hard disk drives?
  – Oh, excellent sir! There are many dangers in this high security Company building for a visiting foreigner from the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Security may any time do a checkup on me. Even bringing the Kingston to your desk was gambling with faith. I took a calculated risk, but dare not press my luck any further. And by the way, the Kingston also contains the sequence-key you need to get into the Hall of the Main-Frame. I secured a copy when the Chairman gave me the grand tour of the building on my first day in this barbaric country. Do not ask how!

A Real Man from Texas
Dresden looked down upon the Chinese’s manners with a hard-bitten investor’s cynical contempt. The Business Strategist’s slanting black eyes and purring voice reminded him of a cat, and he often told himself to watch this slick oriental envoy for treachery. On the other hand, he secretly envied the Mandarin his exquisitely cultivated manners and easy charm. This fact led Dresden to resent the strategist ever more; for, although his year in the Investment Company had given Dresden some slight polish, he was still at heart a blunt, bullish, young redneck out of Texas. He would have to be careful.
– Oh, all right, grumbled Dresden.
– Excellent! I knew that so superior mind as yours would see the force of my arguments. And now we part, to meet again in the Hall of the Main-Frame in ten minutes hence, which should give us ample time for our rendezvous.

Moonlight in Synthetic Neon
The night outside the company building grew darker, and he could hear the wind increase as he walked the now desolate corridors which led to the Main-Frame. At the titanium vault-door he entered the sequence-key the diminutive Chinese had given him. As the titanium opened on silent hydraulics the half-moon rose over the skyscrapers outside the panorama windows behind him. The illusive light of this moon embraced the synthetic light emanating from the vault as Dresden walked silently into the great hall casting wary glances into the semi-darkness.
   As the led-lights cast a powdering of blueish silver over the server pylons all around him, Dresden forgot his premonitions. For here, in the middle of the enormous server hall stood the monolithic Main-Frame server of which Jin had spoken. It was a smooth, brushed, polished shaft of dark metal, which rose from a small dais and soared up until it almost pierced the steel ceiling. The top of the smooth shaft appeared as a mere blur.
  Here then, was the Main-Frame which Jin had been allowed to admire when the wan Chairman broke Company strict rules by showing off the server hall to Jin. The Investor walked up to the shaft and with a startled oath clutched the sequence-key when Jin appeared like a ghost beside him.
 – I did not mean to startle the excellent Investor, but take the seat by the Main-Frame’s interface and connect the two portable hard-disks. Then write the password I bought. Then you must input the code the Vice Chairman of the Corporate Responsibility Committee sold me before his unfortunate demise. The code will infiltrate the algorithms that are guarding our waiting gold and platinum files. Then it will erase all traces and nobody will ever notice your data extraction. Ready to input the code, honorable Investor.

Key-Strokes from Doom
Dresden was key strokes from finishing inputting the complicated code when his subconscious suddenly flashed a combination of well-known numbers. His index finger hit the Enter key. Numbers he had not seen since he was a reckless hacker in Huston flashed on the screen. He had been hacking corporate, military and government sites for the glory of just being able to get past the computer defense-walls well-dressed Suits claimed were impregnable. He had been the best of his country’s data-thieves and been known in the deep web as the Codebreaker. He had never been exposed, but dropped out of the hacker trade when one lonely night he realized he could make prison free money through legal, but merciless investment companies. These numbers were parts of his old code. Mutating like a real life virus and capable of penetrating server-citadels, no matter how well protected. Jin’s code was not an encryption key! It was a modified stealth-virus. How had Jin gotten hold of it? No matter … He had never designed a virus without an antidote. Realizing that he had been led by the nose like a newbie investor to junk bonds he started to erect a defensive structure to hold the virus the moments he needed to inject his antidote.

The Mandarin's smile
Jin must have felt the change and seen the realization in Dresden’s eyes. Luckily, Jin enjoyed his predicaments so much that he would not attempt to physically attack him. And even better… the Business Strategist had no inkling that it was Dresden that a few years ago had hacked a bank in China and was the mastermind behind the stealth-virus he was now going to terminate. 
–You are smarter than your brute looks, Investor, but it is too late. The virus you have injected into the Company’s computer system will go viral within 180 seconds. There is no stopping it now. And by the way, there are no golden files in the Main-Frame. That was a ruse to get you to help me and ultimately make you dài wǒ shòu ɡuò, or become my scapegoat, as you say in your uncouth language.
   
The Golden Pheasant
Dresden’s eyes blazed with volcanic fury as he hurled the might of his powerful knowledge to keep his temporary wall from crumbling. He had the means to counter the spread of the virus in his pocket. After all … Could not a creator kill his own creations? Sweat tickled down his brow and soaked the cotton shirt under his jacket. But he needed the smirking Chinese out of the way.
 – Since, my dear investor, your life approaches its predestined end tomorrow when they find out what you have done, continued Jin, it would be impolite of me not to explain my actions, so that your lowly spirit may journey to the blazing hell the god in your barbarous country favors the greedy. Know that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China of his amiable but foolish highness, the General Secretary, is divided between two parties. One of these, that of the White Peacock, welcomes even more contact with you barbarians of the West. The other, that of the Golden Pheasant, abominates all associations with you animals; and I, of course, am one of the selfless patriots of the Golden Pheasant. Willingly would I give my life to bring your techno-culture to utter destruction.  Contact with your barbarous masters contaminates our pure Chinese culture, and your so called democracy threatens our divinely ordained social system.
– Is that… the point…. of this meaningless… exercise of power, Dresden managed to gasp between keystrokes.
– We don’t understand fully, how the virus you Americans applied and inserted, function, but we have named it the Taiping Tianguo Virus after the bank it totally obliterated. We know that it originated in your country and we managed to isolate it. We know that the virus you are battling will mutate and break through the fragile defense wall I see you have succeeded to erect. When that happens, it will infect the Main-Frame and the rest of the minor servers. Even your backups will be erased. Then the Taiping will race down your computer connections to Wall Street and all the other stock exchanges where your Company earns your inflated dollars. The Shanghai stock exchange will of course not be infected. We have seen to that all Chinese trading platforms are immune. My guess is that it will take less than three hours to engineer the downfall of your capitalistic system. Next week, China and the Golden Pheasant will be the supreme economic leaders of the whole world. The gold standard will be reintroduced and the West will never recover. You will become inferior vassal-states under our leadership. And, do not a moment believe that your Fort Knox gold is still resting in the now empty and dusty vaults. The 8000 tons have been sold by corrupt politicians and The Federal Reserve banks to Saudia Arabia, India and China.

Arrogant Yellow Devils
-You arrogant, yellow devil …This will also be China’s downfall. You… are a part of… the economic globalization. You need… the global market!
 – We, of the Golden Pheasant, are willing to bet that China comes out on top after your downfall. We have an industrial knowledge base you westerners have been stupid enough to transfer to my country in your greed for higher profits. By this time tomorrow I shall, I hope, be far away. If FBI captures me… well, a man must die some time, and I trust I shall do so with the dignity and decorum befitting one of my rank and culture. My well clad dead body would make a delightful ornament in the FBI’s interrogation cell, I am sure. – And so, my good Investor, farewell. You will forgive this person for turning his back upon you during your losing battle with our Taiping virus. Your demise is a pity in a way – for security will kill you - and I would not enjoy witnessing it. Had you had the advantages of a Chinese upbringing, you would have made an admirable servant – say an Investor in precious metals for me. But things are as they are.

Wall Street Tango
After a mocking bow of farewell, the Chinese turned to go. The Business Strategist’s plan was to leave him trapped to the keyboard until the nation-crushing virus broke free into the financial markets of the World.
   The keyboard that held him did not forbid all movement and his massive key ring pressed against his thigh. His right hand kept on writing while he strained to pull the dull lumps of analog metal and silicon out of his pocket. The LaCie iamaKey flash drive was hidden among all the other metal keys. His dirty secret. His plan for revenge if his stingy Company should ever fire him without offer remuneration that was competitive in the international market for top precious metal investors.
   His modified Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm was on this key. A quantum algorithm that would be exponentially faster than any possible deterministic classical algorithm. An algorithm that always found counterstrokes to mutating viruses. An algorithm that also would have wiped all financial records in the Investment Company a week after he had left the building. Possibly Business Strategist Jin had beaten him to it. Every new keystroke became agony. The torment of suspense grew unbearable. Dresden shoved the iamaKey into a USB-port and hit Enter. His fingers were aching and numb as the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm went to extermination war against the Taiping virus.

The Black Monolith
Dresden exploded off the chair and saw Jin walking leisurely towards the massive vault door. The arrogant Chinese would close the door in his face and leave him locked in the server hall for security to find in the morning. He pounced like a striking ox and a mighty blow to the side of his head subdued Jin’s struggles. Dresden groped into the Chinese wide sleeves and tore out the Kingston Predator containing the virus. Then Dresden lurched back to the Main-Frame, dragging the Mandarin after him. As he reached the level section around the base of the monolith, he heaved The Business Strategist into the air over his head. Seeing what was happening to him Jin uttered one high, thin scream as Dresden hurtled him at the shaft. The Chinese struck the column headfirst with a thud and slid unconscious to the ground at its base.
   The blow to the head was merciful, for the Business Strategist would now never feel the chemical induced pain the corporate security officers would have injected into his frail body. He would never be able to scream answers and beg the torturers for death. Yes, they would know that Jin had not been alone, but since they would find no signs of tampering with the Main-Frame they would conclude that Jin’s collaborators were to be found in the Surveillance system department. After all, hadn’t the infallible system been rendered useless for the whole building for hours? Let them all suffer, he thought as he left the comatose Chinese lying in the bluish light. Closed the titanium door and strode back to his throne of screens and the waiting graph trajectories.

The Long Fall
The price of gold had started a slow fall on the Shanghai stock exchange and kept on creeping downwards as he stared at the screens. 1216 dollars an ounce! Dresden smiled ghoulishly. Something told him that the price of gold would hit rock bottom when Wall Street did not collapse as foreseen by the Chinese. The Golden Pheasant industrialists had been buying tons upon tons of precious metals the last five years. Getting rid of what they thought would be a dollar without value in the weeks to come.
- Time to sell and all the bullion and gold mining stocks the Company owns, thought Dresden with a wolfish smile. Time to earn  handsome bonus, or follow Business Strategist Jin to his hell.
- The End

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