Sunday, 10 June 2018

Time Horizon & the Conspiracy - Night's Black Agents

Time Horizon: Shareholders are concerned about the long-term financial prospects of their company, because the value of their shares depends on expectations for the long-term future. In contrast, managers might only be interested in the short term. This is partly because they might receive annual bonuses based on short-term performance, and partly because they might not expect to be with the company for more than a few years. ICSA Definitions in Corporate Governance.

It occurs to me that the Conspiracy in Night's Black Agents is relentlessly anti-Capitalist. Which will come as a shocker to you, I'm sure, but consider - even the Mafia operates on a kind of managerial reward scheme, with bonuses and benefits. The Conspiracy does not.

If you're middle management in this organization, you don't get bonuses based on short-term performance. Vampires don't care about the short term; their interest is strictly in centuries. Their servants, being mortal, would probably like to think about short-term benefits, but that would be a huge mistake. If upper management ever got the idea that the chair moistener from section 7G was developing strange notions, that foolish dreamer'd be off to the slurry pits.

So what keeps this organization functional, bearing in mind that it doesn't operate in the same way a corporation would, with salary bumps, bonuses and other rewards? Why become middle management for immortal psychotics?

1) The alternative is worse. Say you're a criminal, whether part of an organized crime network or just a talented freelancer. It's not like you can go to the cops for help. They'll just dump you in the slammer or the booby hatch, and that assumes you live in a relatively civilized nation rather than one where the authorities shoot you on sight. Plus, there's always death. Only one kind of person climbs out of the coffin, and you're pretty sure it's not you. The threat of death works on just about anyone, particularly if it's a suitably messy and prolonged death.

2) Sweet Toys. There might not be much hope for you, but at least there's plenty of fun to be had while you're still above ground. The vampires have access to all the best stuff - seemingly bottomless bank accounts, narcotics by the boatload, pretty people and booze. There's enough to numb the senses and stop you asking the important questions, like how long you can expect to enjoy all this.

3) Obliviousness. Very few people in the first two levels of the network are going to know who they work for. All they know is they get slipped some cash and aren't encouraged to ask questions. That plus the various vampiric powers of mind control and memory wiping ensures even the more inquisitive chair moistener never realizes what she's involved in. It's like the guys and gals at Enron; one day they had jobs, stock options and a future. Next day they're clearing their desks.

4) Ambition. Sure, you're not part of the in-group now. In time anything's possible. Play the game, keep your head down, and maybe one day …

However there's one big problem with this system. It's very vulnerable to abuse, but not the kind you may be thinking of.

Barings Bank sank thanks to a rogue trader, Nick Leeson. Soc Gen nearly went belly-up thanks to Jerome Kerviel. Kewku Adoboli made the management team of UBS look like chumps and lost over $2 billion. Toshihide Iguchi burned through $1.1 billion.

Weak management, ethical vacuousness, regulatory deficiency and a culture of deference to success leads to trading disasters time and again. The Conspiracy often has its claws in multinational corporations or banks, but it's a cinch that the vampire masters aren't sitting down with the audit team every other month and going over risk factors and daily trades. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't see Dracula poring over annual reports and crunching numbers. That's what Renfields are for.

Problem is, if you don't understand what your company is doing then you risk someone taking advantage - and then you're really screwed. Barings went belly-up, after all. Vampires are the shareholders in this parable, but shareholders are seldom activists. They want their company to succeed, but they often don't pay enough attention to the inner workings of the company to ensure its long-term survival. When disasters happen, often the first sign the shareholders pay attention to is when the share price sinks below sea level - and then it's too late.

Picture the scene: ashen-faced government ministers in close conference with solemn lawyers and suicidal bankers plan strategy and write and rewrite policy, as queues of people line up in front of whichever financial institution is going belly-up this time. One man's face is on every television screen. Nobody knows exactly where he is; he was last seen boarding a flight, but never arrived at his destination - or if he did, he went straight into hiding. Billions of dollars went with him. Forensic accountants are still plumbing the depths of his secret off-books accounts.

Meanwhile the vampires are having a meltdown, because when that trader went off into the never-never so did their schemes for world domination. "What do you mean, the money's all gone?"

Worth watching.

After all that, a scenario seed:

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Hook: Through cutouts, a financial whiz-kid asks for a rescue. The whiz-kid is in a major European city, and wants help getting from there to Dubai completely unobserved. The outside world has to think he's still at home for at least 48 hours after he makes a break for it.

Wakeup: Any reasonable plan gets the target to Dubai as agreed. However very soon after they get there the agents see their faces on every TV screen, newspaper and financial webpage. Where is the whiz-kid? He's alleged to have brought about the complete collapse of the financial institution he worked for, and the depths of his bad trading have yet to be fully revealed. The agents are linked with his disappearance, and it soon becomes clear this is because the whiz-kid planned for that to happen. Meanwhile the whiz-kid has completely vanished; he has contacts in Dubai who helped him give the agents the slip.

Blowback: Initial Heat gain is substantial, but the first hit team isn't human. The vampires had a substantial interest in the collapsed financial institution, and are desperate to get the whiz-kid back. There's always a chance not all the money's gone, but only he knows exactly what happened and where everything went. This is why the whiz-kid burned the agents. As far as he's concerned they're meat shields, to stop the vampires from closing in on him before he made his getaway.

Stall: Continuing the search in Dubai is a bust. The whiz-kid came here because he wanted to get to an international airport hub with links all over the world. He could skip to Toronto, London, Kenya, Manila or anywhere in-between. He has friends at the airport who helped him confuse the trail by posting several different potential flights; tracking and Interrogating those friends will help find the whiz-kid.

Twist: The country the whiz-kid fled to has its own vampire program, or - if it's somewhere like Manila - has been infiltrated by a foreign nation's program, eg China's. He has contacts who work for that program who've offered him asylum in exchange for all he knows. Those contacts are just as happy to feed the agents to the Conspiracy as the whiz-kid is - they'd far rather the Conspiracy was chasing the agents than tracking the whiz-kid. Because of this, the agents find themselves gaining Heat wherever they go; the opposition intelligence agency is tracking their movements and telling the world.

Big Boom: The agents are finally in the same city as the whiz-kid, as are the Conspiracy and the other intelligence agency. Just when it seems the whiz-kid is about to be cornered, the car/plane/train he's in goes up in a big fireball. Nobody has the whiz-kid, not the vampires, the spies, or the agents. Is this an assassination, the whiz-kid's final escape plan, something else? Whatever it is, the agents will need to deal with it and clear out quickly, before all that Heat becomes too much to bear.


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