Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Nameless Man.

The Barbarros family had ruled the London currency market for fifty years. Through a combination of skill at trade, a well-rounded set of unethical business practice, and simple luck, they gained a monopoly over the market: through careful employ of their position (being sure never to gouge to the point that it became utterly intolerable to their victims) and intimidation of any potential competitors, they had maintained it for decades. Their wealth and power gave them contacts in government; the Barbarros clan was a familiar sight in Parliament's halls, and more than once, the head of their clan had been invited to a certain house of Downing Street to discuss matters privately. Some years ago, a motion had been initiated to install the Barbarroses as an official arm of the government, though it foundered in committee. So this gives you some idea of their importance.

But at this time, they had encountered the rare competitor that their wealth, power, and thinly veiled threats of violence could not intimidate. They had sent polite notes; these were ignored. They had sent veiled threats; these were ignored. Now they sent armed thugs, led by the head of the family himself, Nicolas Barbaros, to deal with the problem.

Six of them surrounded the target house; two more, guarding Nicolas, stood in the street out front, while three more thugs, the last of those present went to break down the door. They had been ordered to shatter the offender's kneecaps, dislocate his joints, and rough him up a bit everywhere else, for good measure. The world of international currency trade, they knew, was Serious Business. Their competitor must be made to realize this.

Shortly after the trio of thugs entered, screams were heard from the house. Nicolas turned to his bodyguards. "Is that good?" he asked.

The thug shrugged.

The sound of gunshots came from the house; eight in quick succession, bam bam bam bam, bam bam bam bam.

"That's not good," Nicolas said, turning to his other bodyguard.

But both were already dead; they fell bonelessly to the ground with a thud. With a rising horror, Nicolas looked at the thugs stationed around the house; they were dead, too, every one of them shot through the walls of the house with perfect aim. His vision went black.

He awoke in an alley, dark clouds swirling overhead and rain coming in a constant drizzle. His clothes were unfamiliar. He found a pay-phone; none of the numbers he'd memorized answered, and the house-phone had been disconnected. Slowly, he hitchhiked back towards London, and pieced together the events that had transpired in the missing period: six months. Six months! The power of the Barbaros family, broken; the currency market freed for open competition; their practices denounced by a righteous government, and their assets seized. Nicolas Barbaros was a broken man.

But he remember the address of the man who had begun his downfall, who had brought about his ruination; and to that place he went. He rang the doorbell, and waited. After a little while, he started tapping his fingers on the wall, patting out some complex rythym. Later, he started humming.

Then the door opened.

"You." Nicolas said, flatly.

"Yes." the Nameless Man replied. "What is it?"

"Why did you do this to me?" Nicolas said. "Why have you destroyed me - my family - taken away all my wealth, all my power, and left me impoverished and friendless? You have gained nothing from it!"

"I have not," the Nameless Man agreed. "So soon as your family's downfall was guaranteed, I left the market; I am no richer now than I was when I began."

"Then why?" Nicolas asked. "Why?"

"Why should I not have?" the Nameless Man inquired. "The carp does not say, 'I wish that I were a goldfish; I wish that I were a koi.' For the carp is not a goldfish; and is not a koi just a carp by another name? So it is with you."

At that moment, Nicolas was enlightened.

Truly, the wisdom of the ancients applies even to the current day!

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