Jeff Singh, Irwin Hall, and Eddie Persico sat off by the back wall in the cafeteria, drinking coffee and conspiring. On Earth that would have been like the Governor of the Federal Bank, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the CEO of Amazon-Walmart-Fuji (AWF) meeting in the corner booth at a Waffle House. The social and political strata related to wealth still existed on Home but were exhibited in very different ways. None of them had body guards or felt the need to have a special secure conference room to keep such meetings secret.
Markets wouldn’t change value wildly on rumors the three were seen together, because that sort of public market didn’t exist on Home. If anyone on Home held Earth stocks it was traded on Earth exchanges, with all the risk that applied to foreigners operating in a different legal system. Eddie did so, but retained one of the three resident attorneys on Home who served Home citizens to deal with the complexities of Earth laws and taxes.
Most business on Home and Central on the Moon were sole proprietors or partnerships. So far the Assembly hadn’t seen giving legal status to corporations as desirable. Several speakers had objected to allowing foreign corporations any special rights of personhood, arguing that would diminish personal responsibility when such a thing was proposed. Earth corporations had little representation on Home because their agents would be held personally responsible for their corporate conduct. That effectively negated the reasons to do business as a corporation. There were three banks and two delivery services brave enough to pay somebody very well to do that, and their terms of service were very different than what the Earth branches of their companies offered.
Jeff and Irwin ran the two banks which were exclusively spacer owned and Eddie was the richest person on Home, at least in terms of actual liquid cash assets. Eddie was aware Jeff with his partners Heather and April probably had more potential for wealth looking a few decades into the future. Far from being competitors, they both intended to informally support and accommodate each other as having complimentary business interests even if they weren’t actual partners.
Irwin was their link to Earth interests, given Jeff was effectively isolated from using any Earth banking systems. Not that Earthies were all that thrilled with Irwin’s Private Bank of Home, but there was trade between the habitat and Earth that was too large and important to run as part of an underground or black economy. The de facto currency of Home was the Solar, a monetary unit based on a twenty five gram gold or platinum coin, which was illegal to hold or trade in North America or China.
As long as the coins carried the Name of Jeff’s bank on its face instead of Irwin’s bank the Earthies ignored the fact that much of the metal the System Trade Bank coined came from Irwin’s deposits and went straight back to him for a minimal seigniorage. There wasn’t really an alternative way to carry on an exchange that wouldn’t cost more or look worse. So Irwin kept access to four bank clearing systems, though only the Russian Federation and India treated him as a full peer to their system banks.
Eddie wanted to build a second companion habitat to Home, opposite it in a halo orbit around the meta-stable point which Home circled out beyond the Moon. Actually he wanted to build two of them, but he didn’t quite have the funds to build one alone, so he was discussing how to bring in Earth money with the two bankers. It bothered him not to keep total control of the project that sole ownership would allow, but he was worried the Earth economy was recovering sufficiently somebody else might undertake the project and get in ahead of him. The slots in the orbital path were up for grabs ever since Home had made clear the UN or any other Earth agencies weren’t going to tell the Homies where they could park. China had lost a couple trillion Yuan of ships and their crews trying to enforce that defunct idea. The UN didn’t exist anymore except as some obsolete agreements on paper without agency.
If Eddie didn’t get some construction started opposite Home there was a real possibility a consortium of Japanese, Australian and other partners might put a smaller habitat there to establish squatter’s rights until they could build on the initial station. Jeff and Irwin both agreed that was a danger, and would rather deal with Eddie controlling a new hab than some unknown. It would be glaringly hypocritical to object someone else couldn’t do the same thing Home had done and stake out an unoccupied space.
“I don’t want to just build an unspun hub,” Eddie insisted. “I want it to be obvious we intend to ultimately build a series of rings just like Home has, but with more cubic and stiffer so it can be moved easier if we need to in the future. So I want the start of a beefy spindle and two cylindrical sections at the end of two arms that investors can visualize being extended each way until they complete a ring. You’d leave closed off sections on the hub where two more spokes would reach out too. Build to spin up to a full G when the ring is completed all the way around. I want it to be obvious it’s just a start and where stuff will be added on next.”
“That would be hard to keep balanced out without a full ring to carry a balancing circuit,” Irwin pointed out. “You’d have to pump against the throw clear to the hub to transfer to the other side. It wouldn’t be near as fast as pumping around a full ring.”
“That’s another reason why we’d only spin it up to half speed until we have a full ring,” Eddie said. “Do you really have serious doubts about the feasibility? Have you read the engineering studies and alternate proposals? Neither of you are aerospace architects. If you have specific doubts somebody must be feeding them. Is somebody I’m not aware of speaking against the project?”
Irwin shook his head no. “They aren’t serious objections. I pretty much skipped all the detailed stuff about early construction and went to the architectural concept drawings and important numbers at the end. All the deep stuff about moment arms and skin loadings was Greek to me. It’s just that when you start talking about it, all these objections easily pop to mind. I know just enough from living in Home to have ideas about what can go wrong.
“It’s probably better to not bring all that stuff up if you aren’t talking with a space nut or a construction worker who is just fascinated with every detail. I have to pretty much trust the people you hired to know what they are doing. You have to trust me to be able to say whether the needed money can be attracted to the project no matter how physically sound and practical it is.”
“I know just enough about ship building to understand some of the terms,” Jeff Singh said. “It’s like a person who knows how to do drawings looking at an oil painting. They are both art and may share qualities like composition. But that doesn’t mean that because you can do a decent pencil sketch that you can do an oil. Likewise I know a little banking, but Irwin understands the Earth banking systems and what their people want to hear from him better than me. So I have to trust both of you to some degree.”
Irwin believed Jeff had no idea how to schmooze with Earth bankers, but he suspected his dependency on Irwin to do so was more in the nature of a convenience. When Jeff’s bank was cut out of Earth settlement systems over the creation of his currency he hadn’t begged for acceptance and a way to make amends. Rather he publicly stopped accepting their currencies, dumping Dollars and EuroMarks. Doing so through shady Russians in a way that was just private enough it was hard to denounce and public enough not to fool anyone. It was then their currencies that had declined rather than Solars.
Jeff still denied actually engineering that. Irwin had been tempted back then and still occasionally thought about running Jeff’s statements through verification software. He’d discussed that with his most trusted employee, Dan Prescott, who handled their IT. He’d asked just what Irwin expected to do if he got answers he didn’t like? He also predicted Irwin would be tempted to script words and phrases into his conversations with Jeff to try to refine the answers.
“Do you think that would work?” Irwin asked, intrigued at the idea.
“I think he’d catch on to it about the third time you said something that isn’t your usual pattern of speech, and then he’d lead you about with false responses so you ended up knowing even less than you did before.” Dan said.
“You really think he is that smart?” Irwin demanded.
“I do, and the next thing you are going to be tempted to say is, ‘If he’s so smart maybe you should go work for him.’ I’ve heard you say variations on that to other people and if you say it out loud to me I’ll give it a go and see if he’ll hire me.”
Irwin didn’t say it, but he didn’t deny thinking it either. He knew Jeff was smarter than him and suspected Dan was too. He certainly was about computers and security. Irwin had that twinge of insecurity so many feel to have an employee smarter than them. What he didn’t understand was that was a factor in retaining Dan. If he quit Dan had pretty much two choices, start his own bank, or go to work for Singh, and he wasn’t comfortable working for somebody that much smarter than him. He felt much more secure with Irwin.
“Why not go ahead and learn how to build stations?” Eddie asked Jeff.
“There isn’t enough time to know everything. In the last few years I’ve had a hand in designing and building a dozen ships already. How long do you think it would be before I got to design a dozen stations? I had to get a lot of help just to design the zero G temporary housing. The pay-back period is too long. Let somebody else do it who thinks it’s fun.”