How Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ characters interact with their worlds. Number 2: Will Macmillan Jones

This is an extract from The SatNav of Doom, (The Banned Underground #5).  Here we see a group of elven merchant bank research analysts, who have been charged with the task of creating a new economic modelling device for HM Treasury, wrestling with some of the practical applications of their research. The magical and mystical world they inhabit sometimes fits uneasily with ours.  On other occasions, the links are a little closer….

The SatNav of Doom lay on the desk, chained to the laptop to which it was connected by an umbilical USB lead. A mystical pentacle surrounded both devices.  Beside the desk, and rising from the floor to a tremendous height, were the instruction manuals.  A thin layer of dust lay on the very top, revealing that they were rarely used and that the cleaner was not very tall.

“Time for another test run, I think,” decided Franken.

“Righto,”  agreed Oscar.  He connected the power leads, and turned on the internet connection.  Lights ran back and forth across the screens of the laptop and the SatNav as they made all sorts of connections and communication tests.

“System diagnosis complete,” announced the SatNav.  “Please input destination instructions.”

Franken sat down at the desk and pulled the laptop towards him.

“Careful!” warned Holdness.  “You are on the edge of the pentacle there.”

“I don’t think that makes any difference now,” said Oscar.

“Better to be safe than sorry.  There’s still quite a bit of random magic we couldn’t account for in the calculations.  You don’t want it grounding through you, Franken.”

“Good point,” agreed Franken.  “I’ll take care.  Now, where shall we go, gentlemen?”

“How about the Quantative Easing Measures?” asked Oscar.  “I always love the bit where the banks use the free money to pay big staff bonuses.”

“Good idea,” agreed Frankel.  “Holdness, get the drinks and popcorn.”

Frankel started typing the instructions into the laptop’s SatNav interface.

“Have we got to do this one again?” complained the SatNav as Holdness returned, burdened with drinks and snacks.

“We don’t get that much entertainment down here,” replied Oscar.

Holdness settled himself down comfortably.  “We can always do the Banking Crisis next.  I was reading a horror book last night, and it put me in the mood.”

“First simulation commencing in thirty seconds,” intoned the SatNav of Doom.  “Can we try and get up to date next time?  History is boring.”

“History,” Franken said severely, “has much to teach us.”

“Lessons to be learned,” agreed Oscar.

“History repeats itself though,” objected the SatNav.

“Please!” said the three merchant bank analysts, avidly watching large sums of money flowing from the government directly to bank vaults.

“How can you keep watching this stuff?”

“Shut up till it’s over!”

The door opened, and Lord Telem walked in.

“What’s going on?”  he asked.  Walking closer, he saw the screen, and promptly seized a spare chair and a handful of Oscar’s popcorn, and settled down to watch the last of the simulation.

As the invented stream of money was converted to cash bonuses for senior banking staff, Frankel sighed nostalgically.

“Can’t beat an old feelgood movie,” agreed Lord Telem. “But now it’s time to move forward.  Onward and upward!”

Holdness looked confused.  “We like this research area.  It’s quite private, no one comes down here and interferes with us.”

“So it’s secure, because no one sees what we are doing,” agreed Oscar.

“Well all that’s over.  The Corporate funding is in place, and Lord Blear is going to expect regular progress updates.  We have a six month window in which we have to show that our efforts and labours have produced a satisfactory economic modelling tool,” Lord Telem said forcefully.

“I know how to show a profit in a fortnight,” suggested Oscar.

Lord Telem was pleased. “Can you elucidate?”

“We download and record that simulation we’ve just watched, and sell copies to the Investment Banks as motivational lectures.”

“Good idea!” enthused Frankel.

“Bet you could sell it to their Human Resource Departments for recruiting, too,” suggested Oscar.

“I’ll authorise that cost now,” instructed Lord Telem. “You chaps get on with that tomorrow.  Now, we do need to consider some future forecasting as well.”

“I’ve heard that Madcap Harry is a good speculative investment,” said Holdness.

“I’ve heard that one, too,” agreed Oscar.

“Then let’s see if Doom can see who wins the 2.30 at Cheltenham Races,” said Frankel.  “If he gets that right, we’ll move on.”

“To the economy?” asked Holdness.

“Certainly,” agreed Frankel.  “After the next races at Haydock Park.  Oscar, set up that online betting account, will you?”

“Are you seriously suggesting that we utilise the resources that are meant to be concerned in planning the country’s economic future in determining the result of horse races?” asked Lord Telem, a little scandalised.

Frankel thought quickly.

“It’s like this, Lord Telem.  The future can be represented by a matrix of possible events:  some of them will cause the stock market to rise, others cause it to fall. Same with the balance of payments and manufacturing output and export sales.  I propose a narrowly focussed limited exposure development test designed to validate the viability of the experimental software installed to date.”

“By seeing if you can forecast a winner in the 2.30 Races?” sighed Lord Telem.

“The matrix can be easily verified over a short term forecast period, leading to greater security over the accuracy of longer term forecasts.”

Telem nodded, and left the room.  His research team relaxed. Then he opened the door and put his head back in.  “Stick fifty pounds on your choice each way for me, will you?” he called, and left again.  The door swung shut behind him.


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