Staring out into the ocean from a beach recliner half a continent away from his home, Fraser took a sip of mojito. Drowning in the ocean, the juicy orange red of the setting was going redder and redder, turning the evening sky pink. Not your average tropical mugginess, it was room temperature warm, and pleasantly dry, with just the tiniest of winds blowing about. The evening had gone by in a blur.
“Mr Finch,” the bank’s representative had greeted him, once Fraser had been seated at the table. He had seemed friendly if a little nervous. “I’m Tom,” he had said, “the owner of Second.”
“No, million is not that much money, if you are wondering,” he added with a shy smile, as he must have had noticed Fraser’s scruffy poker face (second to none but fiercest labrador puppies) that, as Fraser could then tell from twitching, was going through a series of spasms. Fraser unclenched his jaw. “That is not why you nor I are here,” Tom said. “But let’s get some food first. And drinks.”
To Fraser, Tom didn’t look very much like a bank owner, he didn’t seem the type at all. If anything, Tom looked more like Fraser, except he had a much better idea what to order, and Fraser allowed his food to be picked for him. And a beer. Free or not, Fraser did feel, indeed, like having a beer.
“Just to clarify, you own Second Bank of First?” Fraser asked, taking a sip. During the wait for drinks, they had exchanged a few non-committal comments about the order Tom had made, but the rest was spent in eager waiting that, luckily, didn’t last too long.
Tom nodded. “Yes.”
“All of it?”
“Pretty much, yes.” Tom said.
“You don’t look the type,” Fraser said. “No offence,” he added, quickly.
Tom smiled. “I know, I get that a lot.”
“And it’s not a very good bank, either,” Fraser said, defensively and instantly regretted it. He had an ill tendency to be unable to filter what he was saying when he was nervous. His eyes flew to Tom and then down to the floor. “I’m sorry, I’ve no idea where that came from.”
Tom gave out a warm laughter. “No no, it’s quite alright,” he said. “It’s not very good, indeed… I’d say it’s rather rubbish, in fact. But I didn’t build it, you see. I merely bought it. Banks are like flats, only a little bigger, a little less boring, and who needs a flat anyway, right?”
“Not me,” Fraser blurted out and wanted to punch himself in the face. Something about this whole thing made him talk like a five-year old. Fraser wasn’t much for authority, his respect for other people stemming from their shared experiences, he thought, but there was something respect-inspiring in this bank owner that demanded none.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” said Tom. “Well, actually, forget the chase, there is no chase. Uh, that was a silly way to start it. So, how should I put it… Do you ever rehearse lines and then jumble them all up? I do it all the time. Like repeating in your head ‘No, after you. No, after you. No, after you.’ as if you’d suddenly forget how to be polite. OK. So, right, the chase that is not a chase…”
Tom seemed to be pulling his focus back together. “It’s rather simple. I’ve been where you are now. I did not win a lottery but I might as well had, and I think I have a pretty decent idea about how you are feeling about it. As you surely must be aware by now, there is no novelty in your problem. But it’s not a very interesting one to start with, is it?”
“The most annoying point, of course, is the point of trust. And, don’t worry, I’m not asking for any. No, what I’m here for, is to offer you something that the Second of First is actually good at,” Tom finished, and put a tiny cardboard box in front of Fraser. Fraser opened the box, and, under a thin pamphlet that Fraser put aside without reading, sitting on a thin cushion of styrofoam, was a pink puck-shaped pill.
“I know what you’re thinking right now,” Tom said, smiling, “but it’s not a drug.”
“It sure looks like one.” Fraser said.
“It’s a nano tagging pill,” Tom said. “Once you ingest it, it will break down and dissipate in your body. From there on, you will not require authorisation to spend your money as you see fit. Simply put, look at it as a next gen black card, but smarter, and much more secure.”
“So it’s a pill to turn me into an exclusive snob?”
“We’ve tweaked the snobbery as well.” Tom said, his face serious but assuring, showing understanding to Fraser’s scepticism. “Ready for a dive?”
Not seeing that he had to lose much, Fraser grabbed the pill and chucked it into his mouth, and flushed it down with beer. “Oh,” a thought occurred to him, “I should have asked if it will be OK with beer.”
“It would have been OK even with gasoline,” Tom said, grinning. “Welcome to the club.”
Fraser’s phone beeped shortly after.
“That would be your sync,” Tom said, and sure enough, there was a notification about an app that wanted to install itself.
“You will get to your personal assistant through the app,” Tom said. “Don’t worry, it’s not a single person. There is a good dozen of them, all highly trustworthy, and some even not human.”
“AIs, not dogs.” Tom added, seeing from Fraser’s face where his thoughts had carried him.
The app was also where he could get in touch with others, Tom explained, and after they finished their dinner, that was delicious but irrelevant to Fraser, they said their goodbyes and, shortly after, Fraser found himself standing outside without an idea what to do next.
He took out his phone and launched the app. It was bare and had just a single button on it that said “Go someplace nice.” Fraser tapped the button and shortly after the app told that a car is on it’s way to pick him up. In extremely friendly language, the app also told Fraser to not worry about anything and that everything will be taken care of. An hour later, following the instructions in the app, he found himself on a plane, and five hours later, on the beach recliner, drinking the mojito. Pleasantly, there had been barely any talking or explaining involved in the process.
Fraser grabbed his phone, and after scrolling through contacts, hit the call button.
“How are you doing?” he said, when the other end picked up after the third ring. “Oh shit, it must be middle of the night!”