Friday, November 15, 2013

Part Seventy-Four, Chapter Two - Four Hundred Billion Cups of Coffee

That's right, Voltar doesn't have anything like credit cards.  The Countess Krak thought hers (well, Gris') was a magic piece of plastic full of an endless supply of money.  Guess they operate entirely on cash?

On his way out of the Finance Department, Madison stops by the withdrawal desk to ask for fifty thousand spacebux, which the cashier girl warns would make "an awful wad" and ruin his suit.

She came back with a neat pack and while she was stamping things, Madison looked at the banknotes.  It was the first time he had seen any Voltar money up close.  It was gold-colored paper, quite pretty.  It sparkled.  He petted it.  Very nice.

Always (bleeping) gold.  The Psychlos were monsters because they conquered worlds for it.  Gris is a greedy villain because of the lengths he went through to get it.  And yet the author's just as obsessed with the stuff as his evil characters are.

"You wouldn't have some idle time tonight, would you?" asked the girl hopefully.

Madison ran.

Certainly the behavior of someone who joked(?) about rape last chapter.

Madison saddles up with Flick in the airbus, who is "STARVING!" and eager to go grab some hot jolt and sweetbuns, which along with chank-pops and sweetwater seems to form the entirety of Voltar's alien cuisine.  But when Madison tries to buy some goods from a street vendor with a thousand-credit bill, he's told that it's too much - two space coffees, four space buns, and a pack of space cigarettes will only cost a tenth of a credit, or as Madison puts it "ten cents."  Upon further questioning, the vendor explains that a good pair of shoes would only cost a credit and a half.

Madison did a racing calculation.  He had been thinking in terms of dollars.  As close as he could guess, one credit must be worth at least twenty bucks!

He sank back on the seat in a sudden shock.  He didn't have a billion-dollar drawing account.


And?  See, there comes a point where slapping more zeroes on a number just doesn't mean anything.

According to, Microsoft spent $11.5 billion on advertising in 2010, and while that's a bit ridiculous, at least advertising produces a tangible result - sales figures.  Microsoft has to convince people to shun penguin-based operating systems and buy Call of Duty for the tenth time to play with an oversized controller instead of a mouse and keyboard like God intended.  The advertising is an investment that pays off in the form of purchases.

With publicity, though, you're dealing with the intangible called "fame."  Madison's tiny little mind isn't trying to make Heller-Wister rich or move Wister-Heller commemorative T-shirts, he's attempting to make him a legend.  How do you measure that?  Polls of name recognition among Voltarians?  Total air time among media outlets?  How do you even blow twenty billion on publicity?  Stupid question, I'm sure we'll find out.

So you might as well give Madison two hundred billion dollars, or twenty bajillion dollars, it's just as nonsensical.

Flick reaches for Madison's identoplate, sees the "Pay Status UNLIMITED?" marking, and has a little freakout, eyes "jiggling."  Thanks, Hubbard, for that horrifying mental image.  The vendor offers a paper voucher for a wimpy tenth of a credit, and it sounds like Madison has to stamp it with his identoplate to authorize the sale.  So, something like checking, or an IOU?  But Voltar hasn't made the connection between electronic ID cards, credit, and easy cashless transactions.  No place for Maddy to swipe his card and deduct ten cents from his account.

Flick got his eyes in focus.  He went into sudden motion.  He scribbled on the paper and stamped it and said, "THROW THE WHOLE CONTENTS OF YOUR CART IN!"

The old man looked at the paper in shock.  Then he hastily began to pitch things through the window.  He barely managed to tip up the last tray when Flick took off.

"HOT SAINTS!" cried Flick as he raced into the air. "MY DREAMS HAVE JUST COME TRUE!"

Dreams of living off nothing but coffee and pastries, huh?  Well, too each their own.

At least we've figured out the exchange rate.  So another character in Mission Earth just received a ludicrous amount of money, and you know what that means: chapters devoted to frivolous, tasteless purchases.

Back to Chapter One

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