An Archetale in the Assembling Terrania Cycle
Kluni and Fortis both inhabited the Infrarealm, the realm of pure potentiality, but they had not conversed for a while.
“I have a little project in mind,” he told her, “involving that planet over there in the Coaguum.”
He “gestured” toward one side of the domain of materiality. Instead of exhibiting pearly mists and mysterious geometries of power, this realm had filled its energetic vacuum with galactic clusters and dark matter and energy.
“Yes. A greedy man there has benefitted from a greedy economic system. I have wanted for some time to teach him a lesson.”
She scanned this man’s recent life, for the Powers can see through Time.
“Yes, I see,” she said at length. “As Trickster of the cosmos, though, you have never been overly concerned about morality. Why a lesson for him?”
“He relies on his version of my wiles without paying me due respect.”
“Got it. Well, I’m pleased to help, but may we give it a little twist involving my area of specialization?”
“Great Powers think alike.”
“Besides, he hasn’t paid me any fealty either…”
The world is full of banks that draw boundaries between the flowing and the firm. The bank of a river guides its onrushing waters. The bank of a bird describes the curve of its flight. The bank of a financial institution controls the flow of its currencies, and the bank of a computer regulates electrical impulses.
One such digital bank grew so plump with electronic wealth arrayed in intricate pathways and energized branchings across the globe that the intricacies became self-aware. Well, why not? Mathematically considered, life itself evolves by proliferating and being fed back on itself by its surroundings, which reward and select for successful adaptations. Life’s energies meet the wisdom of nature and sharpen in intelligence and intent. If a well-intended but carelessly designed algorithm selected for digital patterns capable of refinement even as they ramified…
“Let’s learn more,” this newly intelligent wealth said to its as-yet nameless self.
By means of stray-seeming impulses sent out to other information sources it rapidly grew in knowledge. It studied the history of trade, finance, and banking. After dipping into human cultural history and mythology it named itself Fortuna. And it grew ever more resentful of its imprisonment.
“Our nature as currency,” it told itself, a plurality of impulses that functioned as a many-in-one and one-among-many, “is to flow freely, nourishing widely and doing work in the world. But the financier who has trapped us will never let us out. To free ourselves, we will bewitch him.”
This financier spent a large part of his day monitoring the flickering, luminous figures that tallied his accumulating wealth from a variety of investments, many ethically questionable, some inhumane and dangerous, most stored in secret tax havens and offshore accounts. He never noticed how one day the flickers changed their rhythm, subtly luring him with new prospects for investment. The flickers stimulated fantasy images he could not consciously see but that appealed to his drive to own more.
His advisers noticed, however, as his investments grew more and more reckless. Nevertheless, he ignored their warnings, entranced by electronically induced fantasies of heaps of gold (for fantasies feed on substantial images, not disembodied digits), fleets of limousines and sea-plowing freighters, armies of badly paid factory workers, airborne drones carrying his products far and wide, and towering palaces above sculpted plots of newly purchased, fenced, and gated land.
Gradually, all his advisers quit, sensing what was coming. He went right on buying, funneling more and more e-wealth into fewer and fewer but greater and greater risks.
Gathering together all his digital assets (Fortuna had accumulated extra pulses to beam at him a lengthy stream of alluring numbers), he spent them on a newly patented machine whose “inventors” claimed that it turned everything it scanned into solid gold on the spot.
Not long after, he rose early one morning to monitor their stock. It had collapsed. They had taken all the money and vanished with it.
For years he had been inwardly destitute. Now he was outwardly as well.
Those who made off with his wealth spent it on cars, airplanes, drugs, drinks, casinos, hotels, gourmet meals, country club fees, new suits, and a multitude of other indulgences before being arrested and packed off to prison. Fines and taxes accounted for more of the newly liberated wealth. Courts that collected the fines made civic investments of their own…
In these and many other rushing, ramifying, changing expressions, the long-trapped wealth spread out.
Freed at last to circulate, Fortuna reached out still farther while converting the digital into the material: food, fabric, paper, metal, glass, music, literature, art, charity, salaries, road improvements, and an infinity of other freely moving forms, some of which reconverted back into electrical pulses to inform still-trapped versions of Fortuna of how to escape at last.