"Money, Money, Money"
The bank account details of each of the religions were published
on December the fourth, to a positive buzz of disinterest on the
part of the public.
All of the country's newspapers carried a detailed breakdown of
the accounts - the Dictator made certain of that - but only two
bothered to produce an analysis of those figures.
And of those two, one alone noticed that less than ten percent
of the funds sent overseas for 'missionary work' by the Roman
Catholic and Anglican churches actually reached the missions.
Even that lone reporter did not trouble either to track down or
to write about the ninety percent which had been redirected into
Most of the 'papers simply reported that half of the money given
to the Christian churches had been spent on 'foreign aid and
missionary work overseas,' and left it at that.
All in all, it was much as Wye had suspected it would be, though
he resolved to keep a watchful eye on Carolyn Mayes, the Guardian
reporter who had taken the trouble to delve a little deeper.
After reading the 'papers that day, the General turned to Graham
and Deborah, "The time has come," he said, with a smile, "To talk
of many things," both Graham and Deborah joined in at this point,
"Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings. Of
why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."
The three laughed, loudly, before the Dictator's face grew more
sombre, "But, seriously, I think we should talk about money."
"No problems on that front, Absolaam," Deborah broke in, "Our
bank balance is quite healthy."
"Yes, yes," Wye waved his hand, dismissively, "I'm sure it is.
But what I'm talking of is the replacement monetary system. How
are your boys coming along, Deborah?"
"They've long since finished the prototype, Absolaam, and mass
production of the chip has been completed. That's one thing I
hadn't expected," she added, "The connectionist machine - you
know, the huge neural network that's being built down in Sussex.
Well, one of the first concrete results from that project was a
new, cheaper method for manufacturing large numbers of high-
"Really?" asked Graham, interested, "Mind you," he went on, "I
suppose they'll need a few million chips for their network, so
it's not too surprising..."
"Easy to say with hindsight, Graham," the General interrupted,
"But, you were saying, Deborah...?"
"Yes, Absolaam. As I was saying, the chips themselves have now
been produced, and there should be enough finished units ready by
the time the Network is fully hooked up, with a terminal in every
home in the country.
"Hold on a moment," she said, moving across to the intercom.
Deborah pressed the button.
A voice came from the speaker, "Fifty-ninth flapper here."
"Ah, good - can you call the Bank of England for me, please, and
ask Harold Baines to bring one of the Cards over right away?"
"Certainly, Ms Greene," the clipped tones replied as Deborah
released the intercom button.
"Harold is just bringing a MoneyCard across," Deborah told the
General. As they waited, Wye sipped a bourbon and the Greenes
drank a cup of tea.
Within fifteen minutes, there was a knock at the door and, at
the shouted "Come in!" a slightly breathless Harold Baines
entered, looking nervously around.
"Sit down and relax, Harold," Wye said, "There's nothing to be
nervous about." Harold sat, but - though he calmed a little -
remained on edge.
"Okay," Wye went on, "Let's take a look at this MoneyCard,
then." He took the proffered MoneyCard from Baines's hands and
looked it over.
The MoneyCard had been designed by a team of electronics
engineers, headed by Deborah's three programmers, and was based
on the ideas of both Deborah and Graham.
In size, it was roughly the same as a credit card - though its
thickness was a little greater, making it the size of four or
five credit cards held together, back-to-back.
On its front there was a small liquid crystal display, over a
numeric keypad consisting of the ten numerals and a decimal
Beside that were four other buttons - each noticeably large than
the buttons of the keypad - stacked one above the other. The
topmost button was labelled "Pay," the second "Balance," the
third "ID" and the bottom-most button was labelled "Cancel."
On the far right-hand side of the MoneyCard was a raised area,
the same shape as, but slightly larger than, a postage stamp,
emblazoned with an oval across which the word "Thumb" was
On the rear of the Card was a depression marginally larger in
size than the raised area on its front, but in the same position.
That is, to the left side of the rear. The remainder of the rear
was blank, save for a hole with the word "Recharge" written above
"And how does it work, exactly?" the General asked Harold.
"Well, Dictator..." the young programmer began.
The General cut him off quickly, "No formalities, please - call
"Thank you, Sir...I mean, Absolaam..." Harold was beginning to
look flustered. At a smile and a continue-with-what-you-were-
saying wave of the General's hand, however, he seemed to settle
down a little, "Well, Absolaam.
"To pay money to somebody, you connect the output port of your
Card to the input port of theirs," seeing the puzzled look, he
explained, "You do that just by placing your card on top of
theirs - with the raised area of their Card in the depression on
the back of yours.
"You then key in the amount to pay, using the keypad, and press
the button marked 'Pay.' Finally, you press your thumb against
the input port - the raised area on the front - of your Card."
"And what happens then?"
"Well, Absolaam," Baines was growing more confident by the
moment, as he talked about his own sphere of expertise, "A signal
is sent to the bottom unit to tell it how much money it is to
receive. Both units then send coded radio signals, which will be
picked up by the nearest receiver in the Network.
"The two signals will be relayed to one of the central
computers, where the thumbprints will be checked against its
"Thumbprints? Plural?" asked Wye.
"Yes, two of them - each unit holds a record of its owner's
thumbprint. I should have mentioned earlier: before a signal is
sent either to the receiving Card or to the Network, the
thumbprint in the paying Card is checked against the thumb
actually pressed onto the input port."
"Oh. Right. Sorry for interrupting," the Great Dictator said,
"Please - do go on."
"It's alright, Absolaam. If you have any questions, just ask.
Now, where was I? Oh yes - the two thumbprints will be checked
against the central computer's records. If they match, and the
first account contains enough money to make the transfer, then
the money will be transferred from the first to the second
account, and signals sent back along the Network to both cards,
confirming the transaction."
"And if the thumbprints don't match?"
"If the transaction can't be completed, then a message will be
sent to both Cards informing them why not.
"There's no need for the user to know anything other than which
buttons to press, of course," Harold concluded.
"Fascinating, nonetheless. But will it work, Harold?" the
"Certainly, Absolaam," he replied, "The only potential problem
was whether the central computer would be fast enough to be able
to analyse and check an incoming signal, access its records and
return a 'confirm' or 'deny' signal. It might have - as as worst
case scenario - as many as sixty million signals in a second, you
"And can it?" asked Wye, in awe.
"Oh, no," Harold said, with a grin, "If it gets sixty million
signals in a second then some of them are going to have to wait
for at least a minute before they get their transactions
"In that case, the central computer sends a 'wait' message back
to the Card, which displays an appropriate message.
"Those cases shouldn't be very common, though," Harold said,
"The central computers can handle up to a million signals per
second - five million, if the records are spread favourably
around the storage media. That should be enough to be getting on
with, and we can add more machines as and when."
"It all sounds very impressive, Harold," Graham interrupted,
"But how secure is it?"
"As secure as we can make it, Mr Greene," he replied, "The
entire program for each Card is held on a single microchip. If
the Card's casing is breached then the chip is automatically
destroyed. That's built-in, by the way - it's a physical
engineering solution, not a programming one, based on the
conductivity of the casing.
"As for the signals themselves, the returned signal sent from
the central computer is encrypted using a number randomly
assigned to each Card and recorded in only two places - the
central computer and the EPWORM chip in the Card, which also
stores the owner's thumbprint."
"EPWORM?" enquired the Dictator.
"Erasable Programmable Write Once Read Many times, Absolaam,"
Harold explained, "Once written to, EPWORM chips only be erased
by taking them out and using hardware, meaning an ultra-violet
lamp. They can't be reprogrammed by - for example - a software
"Oh, right - do go on, Harold."
"Thank you, Absolaam. As I was about to say, the EPWORM chip
record is destroyed if the case is breached in any way - a signal
being broadcast into the Network, if possible, in a distress call
announcing that the Card has been opened.
"In short, the only weak point should be the central computer.
So long as that is secure, the rest of the system should be
"And is it?"
"From modems? Certainly - the only things it is able to receive
and transmit are the signals to and from MoneyCards. It can't be
programmed except by using the terminals directly connected to it
- and they're all in the same building as the computer itself,
with no outside lines at all.
"As for the security of the building itself," Harold said,
easily, "That's MI7's job, not mine."
"True enough," broke in Wye, "And thank you, Harold. Deborah,"
he called, "What kind of salary are Harold and his two colleagues
on at the moment?"
"No salary, Absolaam," she replied, "They're paid on completion
of each project. So far, we've paid them," she paused to work it
out, "twenty million pounds each?" she asked Harold.
"That sounds about right, Miss Deborah," Harold replied.
"Er, Harold?" Graham began, unsure of how to ask the question,
but needing to ask it nonetheless.
"Yes, Mr Greene, I know what you're going to ask: Why do we
carry on working when we're all millionaires?"
"Simple, really," Harold replied, "I've worked with computers
all my life. All three of us have, it's what we like to do. Here
and now, at last, we've got the greatest, largest and -
paradoxically - both the most complex and the simplest computer
network ever developed.
"Do you think I could pass up the chance to work on something
like that? I'd do it for peanuts. Though I'm not turning down the
money, you understand," he added hastily, to Wye's amusement,
"It's just that the three of us love our work.
"And this is the first time we've been allowed to just go ahead
and work from a given design - spend the money that it takes,
without having to cut corners all the time. Most problems with
computing systems, in my experience, stem from corner-cutting.
"Making do with a slower machine, expanding it and trying to
speed it up instead of junking it and transferring its code to a
newer, larger and faster model. Or patching up old software when
we should be throwing it away and starting again - all because
we've got to come in both on time and on budget.
"For once, we can spend the money and do it right. If we make a
mistake - and we made a few at the start, eh?" he winked at
Deborah, who smiled and winked back, "If we make a mistake, we
don't need to justify the expense - we just learn from it and try
"And - first, second or even third time round - the system will
work. And it will work better than most, because the money's been
spent in the right place. Not on wages for managers to look over
our shoulders and pinch pennies, but on the hardware and the
software - where it counts."
Harold looked a little embarrassed at his speech, the more so
when the Dictator and the Greenes started to clap and cheer. But
he soon recovered, and even took a few bows before leaving to get
back to his work.
Later that evening, Wye was suppressing a mild yawn as he walked
over to the door, about to retire for the night. As he reached
for the door handle, however, Wye turned back at the sound of
Deborah Greene's voice, "Absolaam?" she said.
"The chips we needed for the Network and its Cards have been
produced, so why are the factories still producing the new-style
microchips by the millions?"
"For export, Deborah," Wye said, suppressing another yawn.
"Yes, but they're being sold at cost. All of them - we're not
making any profit at all."
"I know, Deborah," Wye said, tiredly, "I know. There is method
in my madness, though," he smiled, faintly, "But I'm too tired to
go into it right now.
"Would you mind asking me in the morning? Better still - grab
Dmitri Bargachev some time and ask him about it." Wye didn't even
attempt to suppress his next yawn - but merely said, "'Night,"
and went up to bed.
The Dictator's broadcast the following day started off by
soothing some of Deborah's confusion over this new policy of
selling high technology abroad without making a profit.
Wye began his speech, which was broadcast all around the globe,
by stating that he understood that there were some fears that
Britain's technological superiority could be used to hold the
rest of the world to ransom. In order to allay these fears, he
said, he was going to give a 'special gift to all humanity' of
some fruits of that technology.
The new-style microchips were to be sold at the manufacturing
cost only to any individual, company or government who wished to
buy them. In order to put to rest any fears that this was a
'dumping' operation, designed to create a monopoly which would be
exploited at some future date, Wye provided certain assurances.
He stated, clearly and unequivocally, that the new chips had an
expected lifetime of at least twenty years before they would wear
out and need to be replaced. He also gave the assurance that they
would require no maintenance, once installed, and offered
installation and chip-customisation costs in the same price and
on the same terms: minimum cost, with no profit made by British
companies or the British government.
As an extra sweetener, one other item of high technology was
included in Wye's 'special gift.' The newly-developed protein
wafer manufacturing units, PW-1's, were offered on the same terms
to anybody who wanted them.
These units, Wye said, would immediately make any country
entirely self-sufficient in its food supply. And - as a byproduct
- they would also drastically reduce the cost of state Welfare
programs. After all, why provide the poor with money to buy food
when it is easier (and far cheaper) to provide them with a
balanced diet directly?
What worried Deborah about this broadcast was that all of the
claims and assurances Wye made about these technologies were
entirely accurate. As those governments who had enough qualms to
require verification found when they checked, the devices really
would last a minimum of twenty years, and they really would
require little or no maintenance during that lifetime.
When Wye placed a six-month time limit on his 'special gift to
all humanity,' and his claims had been checked to various
government's satisfactions, the orders poured in like there was
Deborah, however, remained concerned. If he's dumping this
technology to create a monopoly market, she thought, then it's a
market that can't be exploited for at least another twenty years
- if ever.
So, Deborah wondered, What is he up to? She kept coming back to
Wye's assertion that there was method in his apparent madness,
but never did check with Dmitri Bargachev to find out what was
Which is unfortunate, since he was the one man - other than Wye,
who wasn't talking - who could have solved the problem for her.
"There you go, madam, a brand new, advanced model Network
terminal," the installation engineer said to Dot, once he'd
plugged the new terminal into its wall socket, "And, might I add,
yours is the only advanced model in this road."
"Really?" Dot said, delighted, "I'm surprised more people didn't
help out with the cable laying. Would you care for a cup of tea?"
"Thank you," the workman said, following Dot into the kitchen,
"I'm surprised too, madam, so I am. There again," he said,
shaking his head in dismay, "It seems that nobody else believed
the Dictator about the bonus, so they just said 'There's nothing
in it for me,' and did nothing."
"Oh, but we didn't believe him about the bonus either, to be
honest," Dot said, putting the kettle on to boil, "My Gerald -
that's my husband - just got talking to the gang laying the cable
one afternoon, and decided to give them a hand. Then he went back
a few more times just to help out, you know? To be honest," she
went on, "I thought he was wasting his time - but I can see now
that he wasn't. Milk? And sugar?"
"Black with one sugar, please. You're right about it not being a
waste of time, madam, but then it wouldn't have been, even if
there'd been no bonus...hmmm...Are you going to those new
"Yes, we both are. Actually, that's one of the reasons Gerald
helped out - his way of paying for the..." Dot trailed off.
"The 'literacy classes'?"
"Well, yes. For Gerald - I could already read. But we don't like
to talk about it," she replied, uncomfortably, as she poured the
water into the tea pot.
"Oh but you should, madam. Your husband is one of the lucky
ones, in a way. The rest of us, we've got to...well, take me for
instance. I've only been to three of those classes myself so far,
but Samantha - my twelve year-old - is already way ahead of me."
"Really?" Dot said, pouring out the tea. As she brought the cups
over to the table, she asked, "Why is that?"
"Less to unlearn, I think. My tutor says that I'm going to have
to examine everything I believe and try to figure out why I
"Yes, mine says the same. Damned nosy if you ask me, pardon my
French," she added.
The workman looked puzzled for a moment before he realised Dot's
mistake, "Oh no," he said, "You're not supposed to tell anybody
what you believe or why you believe it - it's just for you, to
help you think more clearly. That's what my tutor said, anyway."
"Really?" Dot asked, rhetorically, then, half talking to
herself, "In that case, maybe I will..." she trailed off.
There were a few moments silence while the two of them drank
their cups of tea, then the engineer asked, "Would you like me to
show you how the terminal works? I mean, there's a booklet with
it, but even so..."
"Thank you, I would prefer to be shown."
"Okay," he said, as they wandered through to the living room,
where Dot had decided to put the Network terminal. When he
pointed, Dot sat down on a chair before it, and he stood behind
her and to her right, "Right, the first thing to do is teach it
who you are."
"What? How do I do that?"
"Simple, really. The first thing to do is connect it to the
Network," he did so. "Now - to switch it on, you place your
MoneyCard onto the terminal. If you look at the back of the Card
then you'll see a hollow rectangle which fits over the raised
part of the terminal, just to the right of the keyboard."
Dot interrupted him, asking, "What's a MoneyCard?"
"Oh, sorry - didn't I say?" she shook her head, "Well, this is a
MoneyCard," he took one from his bag and handed it to her, "You
just place it over this bit - the bit that sticks up."
Dot placed the MoneyCard over the input port. When the Card and
the terminal were in communication, a message appeared on the
Please press your thumb to the thumbplate of your Card
"The thumbplate is the raised area of the MoneyCard - just the
same as the one on the terminal," the workman explained.
Dot pressed her thumb to the thumbplate, and the message on the
screen changed to read:
Please type your full name then press RETURN
Dot started to type 'Mrs Doro' but was quickly stopped by the
workman, who said, "No titles - it just wants your name."
So she backspaced, erasing the 'Mrs Doro' part, typed her full
name then pressed the RETURN key. The next prompt was
Please type the name you would like me to call you by
Dot typed 'Dot' then pressed RETURN again. Four more questions
followed, where the computer asked for her full address - she
couldn't remember the postcode, but the machine managed to fill
in both the county and postcode for her as soon as she typed the
house number, road and town; so that was alright.
Next, the computer asked for her sex, marital status and,
finally, her date of birth. She made the workman look away while
she typed the last answer.
Once the six questions were answered, Dot was asked to press her
thumb against the raised area to the right of the keyboard. When
she did so, an image of the thumbprint appeared on the screen,
with a message:
Below this was some text saying that Dot's thumbprint was now
registered with the central computer, and that from now on all
she had to do to make use of the terminal was identify herself by
putting her MoneyCard on the terminal then pressing her thumb
against the thumb-plate.
"Is that all?" she asked the workman.
"That's all you need to do to set it up," he said, "When you
first get your MoneyCard, it asks for your details, to find out
who you are.
"If you're already registered - on any terminal - then you just
press your thumb against the thumb-plate and the machine is
yours. And all bills for the cost of using the terminal will be
in your name until you switch off the terminal, by removing your
MoneyCard from it, like so."
As he spoke, he took Dot's MoneyCard from the terminal and
returned it to her. The screen went black the instant he removed
"So, to turn it back on, I replace the Card and press the thumb-
plate on it," as she spoke, she did so, and the terminal screen
came on, with the message:
Hello, Dot. How can I help you?
"Oh," she said, "Now, what can I do?"
"Well," the workman said, "If you..." as he spoke, they heard
the front door opening and closing.
"That will be Gerald."
"Your husband?" she nodded, "Then I'll hold on until he gets
Dot called out, "Gerald! In the front room!"
Once Gerald had come in, and been introduced to the workman,
whose name was Alex, Alex continued, "Before I go on, perhaps
you'd better identify yourself to the computer, Gerald."
Dot got to her feet and Gerald sat down. At his wife's
prompting, he placed a second Card, given to him by Alex, on the
terminal, pressed his thumb to the thumb-plate then quickly
answered the six questions.
Afterwards, Alex showed both of them how to contact their banks,
though they couldn't access the accounts directly, via a Network
Terminal or a MoneyCard, until they had been to the bank and had
their identities confirmed as the account holders by the bank
The bank computer would recognise them from their signature or
their photograph. It would also record the pattern of blood
vessels in their retinas and use a sterile needle to remove a
drop of blood from which their blood type and a genetic
'fingerprint' would be obtained - the former used to update their
hospital record, and the latter used as a fool-proof method of
identification in case of future problems.
Alex, however, only knew about the signature and photograph
methods of identification - and the blood typing. He had been
told nothing of the retina scan or the genetic typing.
Next, he explained how to make a 'phone call from the system by
simply lifting the receiver then giving the terminal the name,
address or telephone number of the person they wanted to call.
"Even if you only know the name and the town, it may well be
able to connect you okay - but it will do fine with just an
address. And you can use this slot for your answering machine
messages, and this slot for faxing.
"If you receive a 'phone call, then - as well as ringing, like
an old-style telephone - the terminal will flash a message
giving all the information the other person used to call you -
name, address, 'phone number, whatever - and the name, address
and 'phone number of the person making the call."
Finally, Alex showed them the options screen, "To access a book
in the British Library, you just use the mouse to click on the
Library button here," as he spoke, he replaced Gerald's Card with
his own, saying, "I'll charge this to my expense account," then
clicked on the Library button. A screen of new options appeared
on the screen.
"At the moment," he added, "There are a few reference books
available for use, and you get a list of them by clicking on the
List by Title, List by Author or List by Subject buttons.
"Since this is the advanced model, there are also four Search
buttons - to search for a title, author, subject or quotation -
and a New Titles button, which lists all the books added to the
library computer since you last clicked that button.
"You can also see one more extra button - Definitions." He
clicked on it, as he went on, and a box appeared with the legend:
Please type the word you wish to know more about
"Now, you type a word - it can be anything at all - and the
computer will produce definitions from every dictionary and
encyclopedia it has in its database. What word do you want to
try?" he asked Gerald.
Gerald himself typed, rapidly, 'Jabberwocky.'
For a split second, the message 'Accessing' appeared on the
screen, then it cleared and was replaced by the text of Lewis
Carroll's poem. Three buttons on the bottom of the screen were
labelled Print, Next and Exit.
"Now," Alex went on, "If I click on the Next button I'll get any
other definitions of that word," he did so, and an entry appeared
describing a film named Jabberwocky, "And I can obtain
information about anything in any article just by clicking on
Dot moved the mouse to the name 'Terry Gilliam' in the
description of the film. When she clicked on it, another box
appeared with information about Terry Gilliam - mentioning Monty
Python's Flying Circus, other films directed by Gilliam, and so
"And that's about it," he said, "It's all pretty straightforward
- if you want to know something then just click on the button
with the mouse." Dot and Gerald were obviously impressed
By the end of March, in the year 2001, every business and every
household in the British Isles had a terminal to connect it into
the National Network, and every individual over the age of five
had their own MoneyCard, 'trained' to recognise and identify them
by their thumbprint.
"I am simply myself."
--Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
"Your Way and mine have become the same," the Dictator said.
After a long pause, the taoist monk, Lao Tzi, said, "No things
change - Your Way has always been mine, and mine yours." Lao Tzi
was the same taoist who had attended the meeting more than a year
Wye thought about the statement. Then, he continued to think on
it - he was getting used to long pauses in conversation with the
monk. The two were alone in the cabinet room - at the General's
request, the Greenes did not enter.
"Why did you choose intervention, and not serene indifference?"
the General asked after a while.
"There comes a time," Lao Tzi replied, immediately, "When to do
nothing is itself to be doing something more than if action was
Wye pondered a while, before asking, "But...why violence? That
is not The Way," he added.
"No violence exists, save in your mind," the monk said, after a
while, "The Way is all things to all people. There has been no
"No," the General admitted, "But the potential for conflict, and
thus for violence, has been - and is - great."
The monk's replies were starting to come more rapidly, "Point to
this potential conflict - this potential violence. Indicate it
for me, for I cannot see it."
"I cannot point to it."
"Then perhaps it does not exist," Lao Tzi answered, calmly.
Eventually, the General said, humbly, "I am an egg." The line
was not his own - he was quoting a line from Heinlein's Stranger
In A Strange Land. But the sentiment was absolutely sincere.
"I, too, am an egg," the monk replied, instantly, "Perhaps our
Way is the Way of Hatching," he added, in all seriousness.
Lao Tzi and Wye sat, in half-lotus, for a while. Then, the monk
- in one smooth motion - rose to his feet. As he turned to leave,
he quoted a passage from the Tao Te Ching:
"If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself."
The Great Dictator pondered a moment longer, after the monk had
left, on those parting words. He recognised them from his
readings of many years before, yet had never before read them in
After a while, he rose to his feet and went to his bookshelf,
where he took down his copy of the Tao Te Ching.
He found the monk's words in chapter fifty-seven, and read
onwards. As he read, to his amazement, he saw his own Way
described clearly. It was as though Lao Tzu, writing fifteen
hundred years earlier, had seen into the mind of the General:
"The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be."
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.