In the New Economy, information is the raw material, the product, and the medium of exchange. A turbulent period is inevitable during the transition to a post-scarcity economy...

- excerpt from a high school economics textbook, published 2020

Needless to say, the post-scarcity economy never materialized.

One Janette Lynn Chang, who goes by the street name Jakarta among other lesser-known aliases, is a living testament to the failure of the predicted revolution in the global economy.

Jakarta is one of the most successful black market dealers in the Greater New Jersey Arcology zones, partly thanks to a formal education in economics and business management, and partly thanks to a hard dose of reality. Distinguishing herself as a bright public high school student, her senior year had landed her a rare tier one corporate sponsorship from the Eastern Conglomerate Bank to attend the prestigious Eastern Conglomerate University of Business Studies.

Three years into her four year scholarship, the goodwill program at the Eastern Conglomerate Bank responsible for funding the scholarship had been cancelled, and, unable to afford the ludicrous tuition, she'd dropped out.

With no formal credentials, and no desire to work as a laborer or a prostitute, the only options available to an attractive woman with no ticket bigger than a public high school diploma, she'd seized on an opportunity to make a month's rent in arbitrage on some questionable and quite outdated NVRAM modules.

At the time, she'd had only a fuzzy idea what NVRAM was, but an acquaintance and aspiring fence, in an attempt to impress her enough to get into her pants, had let slip enough information on the potential deal for her to see the opening.

A niche part, this particular stuff was used almost solely for the repair of legacy systems and produced in infrequent, custom-basis batches. There were few buyers and no steady market. Word had made its way though a tenuous string of interested people that a hardware house specializing in national-level infrastructure was ready to purchase enough antique NAND flash memory chips to fill a conex, part of a service contract with one of the archaic post-oil MidEast countries without enough money to upgrade their decades old utility control systems.

Initially hoping to buy stock and sell high after the public announcement, she found that the hardware house in question was privately owned, and had no plans to accept investors. So, she'd amassed the last of her liquid capital to make the initial buy at a cash discount, and pocketed enough money on the sale to stay in her rathole apartment for another month.

That had been six years ago.

Today, she has the street market on nanoRAM and millipede memory completely cornered, shifting massive quantities monthly from illicit production facilities and fences to customers as diverse as hobbyists and the pirate hardware houses that produced bootleg and illegal hardware for end users all over the world. There was even the occasional order from legitimate corporations, which had to be carefully laundered.

Jakarta, sitting in her office and watching a series of custom data feeds on the terminals in her office, looked up at the door after a brief prompt from the squawkbox above the doorway. She flapped one hand idly at the datafeeds and they switched over to the Eastern Conglomerate Bank's commodity quotes summary feeds and an Eastern Conglomerate Media newscast.

The irony had not been lost on her when choosing the feeds, but they served their purpose. The ECB quotes feed was a common and popular choice for small-time investors all over the world, making it a perfectly innocuous thing to display to potentially nosy visitors.

She flapped again at the door, which opened on her assistant, who was escorting a courier.

On the newscast, a talking head babbled about a spacefaring accident. A one of a kind research vessel had malfunctioned and fallen into the star it had been studying, and in a few short seconds, Jakarta gathered that the media was more concerned with the titillating last words of a drunken crew than they were that the crew had perished, and that the irreplaceable ship had burned to plasma.

She broke away from the newscast and nodded to her assistant, a signal to let the courier in.

Jakarta could see that the courier was an independent based on the lack of logos on his carbon grey and neon green crash suit. Some of the sensitive item couriers did go unmarked, but the dirt under his fingernails said he repaired his own equipment. Independents were unusual, but not unheard of. Oddly enough, legitimate companies often used independent couriers, whereas grey market and even illegal operations most often used the licensed and bonded corporate delivery boys.

What was more unusual was that rather than a hard copy on printed ecopaper or a datadrive, the courier pulled out a standalone pocket terminal of the sort used by technicians and mechanics who needed more local processing power than most users.

What was really unusual was that he didn't ask for biometric confirmation, and simply turned on his heel and left after setting it down. He hadn't even asked to confirm her name.

Annoyed more than anything, Jakarta watched him walk out, and her assistant shrugged as he turned to follow the courier, who was already pulling the crash hood over his head and snapping the buckles that would secure his pouch against anything short of a nuclear blast.

"Tea?" he asked over his shoulder, keeping the courier in his peripheral vision.

Jakarta nodded as the sensors in the desk scanned the standalone.

"The black, if you would," was her reply as the desk worked, a progress bar projected an inch above the surface of the beige plastic terminal.

As she pondered what might be taking her systems so long to complete a routine set of tests, she noticed that the terminal was slightly larger than usual and utterly devoid of markings. A custom job, then, and probably the weirdest, cheapest hardware with someone's homebrewed access protocols. That would certainly explain her systems' difficulty in sussing it.

Moments later, a teacup in her hand, Jakarta turned her attention back to the news.

"Such a shame," she murmured over the steaming cup. "What I would give to even see the moon, let alone another star."

The desk's chirping cut through the sound of a rude slurp, prompting her to turn to the scan results and wrinkle her brow in a rare display of puzzlement.

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