Contemporary Thriller American

Jeremy steadied himself by his stand-up desk and stared, mildly bored, at the top-right corner of his 42-inch monitor, where displayed a floating-point number between 10 and 20 million.

The number represented his net worth. By all traditional measures of finance, he knew this number was completely divorced from reality. A little voice, doddy and impatient, told him he had better sell, get out while the rest of the crypto-schmucks were still hodling, huddling and huffing the fumes of their respective tokens. 

But just. A little. Higher. If he stayed on the rocketship until $900, he could cash out with the same number of millions of dollars as years he had been alive. And wouldn’t that feel good?

A ding came through his headphones, momentarily interrupting his music; this, he knew, meant a message from Chase, a.k.a. Happnstance, the acne-scarred, wispy-bearded University of Illinois computer science dropout who was one of Jeremy’s trusted Mithral mining partners. 

His double-clicked into the Discord messaging app and scanned Happnstance’s communique: 

Looks like an elephant is sitting on price right now - literally stuck at $720 for the past 72 hours...

Mithral price charts tended to look like a rollercoaster designed in an LSD fever-dream; but the rare periods of stasis, for Jeremy, were even more emotionally draining than the stomach-churning craters. 

Rocketships needed momentum to break through the stratosphere. The only thing worse than crashing would be coasting with the bi-planes. 

Jeremy dangled his e-cigarette from his mouth and tapped out a response. 

Some heavy options trading going on, I think

He waited a moment before his next response, 

FiGuy’s about to be on Bloomberg, he’ll talk it up

FiGuy was the Internet nom de plume of Tim Strattfield -- Silverman Associates’ cryptocurrency guru, Wharton Class of ‘02, and overall raging bull on Mithral as the solution to all the world’s ills. 

Happnstance’s response was swift:

I donno why you trust that guy….

Jeremy rolled his eyes and puffed his e-cigarette, blowing smoke away from the screen into the dark of the room. 

Jeremy’s dad, too, had warned Jeremy about working with FiGuy.

“Watch out for those finance types, they’ll always find a way to play the other side of the deal,” his dad had said, dour mustache drooping across his sagging face. 

His dad, who had driven the same Toyota Camry to his professorship at the local community college for as long as Jeremy could remember. His dad, who could talk eloquently on the economy of the Ottoman Empire from a lectern but who barely understood the U.S. tax code, who had three graduate degrees but was blithely unconcerned with his family’s position in the bottom-middle of the income ladder.

Jeremy typed back to Happnstance, Just let FiGuy talk finance and you code, everyone’s happy. 

He reached down to pick up a white Chinese take-out carton of lo mein noodles and beef. The noodles were several hours old; he took a bite and chewed slowly. Something tasted rank in the room-temperature beef.

After a few more greasy bites, he licked his fingers and put the carton behind the monitor. Then, with a few quick taps of the keyboard, he was logged into the Bloomberg Live Stream. 

A jowly, bow-tied white man with rather cartoonish coke-bottle spectacles was addressing the camera. 

“...up significantly year-over-year, some people are saying it has the best chance of any of the cryptos to become this generation’s gold standard. We have with us now Tim Stratfield, global head of Silverman Associates’ Digital Assets Group. Tim, what’s your stance on Mithral - a true store-of-value, or pure price speculation?”

The interviewer was jabbing his pen at the camera, ostensibly a proxy for the person on the right-side of the split-screen - a lean, patiently-nodding man with salt-and-pepper hair, wearing a white pressed pique-collar shirt under a handsome suit jacket.

“Well you know, I’ve got to separate my stance from my firm’s, although the two are fairly well aligned. I’ve seen first-hand the power of Mithral to unlock value in an otherwise very speculative market. Also, considering the clean-energy innovation driven by the incentive based mining structure, and the potential to act as a service token for emerging economies, in turn ameliorating poverty, I’d say Mithral is set-up to be a serious asset class in its own right.”

FiGuy spoke with a casual gravitas, as if unlocking value, solving clean energy, and ameliorating poverty were all in a day’s work.

“So you’re pretty bullish, would ya say?” asked the jowly interviewer.

“Well, I definitely see Mithral as standing apart from other cryptocurrencies for its innovative investment proposition. Would I recommend it as an alternative to gold?” He gave a small shrug, indicating deep multitudes of thought. “I suppose I’d defer to the Silverman P-O-V, which is that Mithral is, um, a smart investment as part of a standard equity portfolio. Especially given the news we’ll see coming from the SEC today on approval of a Mithral ETF, um, we’d recommend holding about ten, maybe no more than fifteen percent of your assets in this token.”

“Got it, so you’d recommend investing, just not staking your whole retirement fund?”

FiGuy again gave a small shrug, “Well, my answer depends on your risk aversion. 

“And what about your standard, average risk-profile client, what are you telling them? Should they start considering more crypto for their portfolio?”

FiGuy scratched quickly behind his right ear, and winced slightly. 

“Look, at the end of the day, we’re still in the early innings of the crypto revolution, and Mithral, all things considered, should continue to go up as adoption increases. Do we expect some price hiccups? Sure. But you know, not just speaking for myself, but at Silverman, our 10-year vision includes clean energy, poverty remediation and financial empowerment, and we believe Mithral as a product solves all three of these.”

The jowly interviewer drummed a pen into the palm of one hand, “Well, it’s an interesting token to be sure. I’ve enjoyed watching it go up, and up and up - last question, what risks do you foresee with continued involvement from Mithral’s founder, Jeremy Riggles, who was previously investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for price manipulation?”

FiGuy smiled and let out a soft, knowing chuckle, as if ruminating on the antics of some harmless little cousin. 

“Look, that’s the beautiful thing about the blockchain - no one central authority can have a tangible effect on the network. Jeremy is brilliant, I count him as a personal friend. Does he have any kind of control over the direction of the currency, the way, say, a central banker might? Absolutely not. I think of his role as more, um, evangelist.”

Jeremy clutched a tuft of hair and smiled.

“I am brilliant,” he muttered out loud, to the dark of the room. Through the noise canceling earphones, he couldn’t hear himself speak. 

“Well, we’re all interested to hear the news coming out of the SEC later on the ETF approval, of course laying the groundwork for the future of Mithral. Tim, thanks for coming on.”

Jeremy closed out of Bloomberg just as Tim was smiling and nodding, no doubt about to crack some soft-focus joke on Chris’ bow-tie or another banality. 

Jeremy took a moment to puff on his e-cigarette before pulling the crypto price terminal back up. The Mithral price, $715, had dropped even lower. Transaction volume was also spiking.

He pinged Happnstance, Some dickhole’s shorting the hell out of us. 

Before Happnstance messaged back, another message came through - this one from FiGuy27. 

You see I called you brilliant?

Jeremy didn’t like to let on he was fond of FiGuy’s compliments. 

He tapped out quickly, Ye. 

FiGuy responded with a winking face. 

Thanks, Jeremy typed back, feeling perfunctory.  

Bubbles percolated for a few seconds before FiGuy shot back one of his boilerplate hype speeches.

I meant it. Do you even realize how much we’re changing the game? Pretty sure Silverman just got the Saudi crown prince locked into the long-term Mithral ETF. Expecting good news out of Washington shortly...

Jeremy uncertainly looked back at the steadily dipping Mithral price - now at $713 - and thought for a few moments of how to phrase his next question. 

After several rewordings, he wrote simply, Who or what do you think’s pushing the price down? 

FiGuy immediately sent back a shrugging emoji - a slightly more exaggerated digital version of his gestures moments ago on Bloomberg. He followed up with, You worried? 

Jeremy frowned and looked back at the price - now at $712 - then typed back, No. Just confused. Someone’s sending a lot of short-sell orders against us.

FiGuy responded, Just wait until the SEC decision. Price will explode after.

Jeremy drummed his fingers, then typed back, You’re sure this is a good thing? More oversight? 

He regretted asking the question as soon as he saw the bubbles start to percolate for FiGuy’s response. Back came a paragraph of pandering explanation about the role of the SEC in financial legitimacy, the opening up of Mithral to new institutional investors, the potential to be a mega-cap security on par with Berkshire Hathaway stock or Saudi oil money…

Jeremy typed back, I’m not selling. Just saying. What time are we going to know about the SEC thing?

FiGuy responded, Before 5. 

Moments later, he added g2g. His availability status symbol turned red. 

Jeremy flexed his fingers over the keyboard, glancing at the time in the bottom-right of the monitor - 1:30 p.m. He could feel the Adderall he had snorted the night before starting to wear. 

He rubbed his face vigorously and forced open his eyes. Cognitive dissonance was rattling his nerves; how was FiGuy so confident about the SEC decision changing Mithral’s fortunes when - clearly - there was a massive whale pressing down on the price? 

Jeremy was fairly certain he knew how to get the answers he needed from the Mithral blockchain; but a dark feeling of dread was overtaking him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know all the answers.

Nevertheless, he spent the next ten minutes noodling around with a query for pulling top transactions in the past 7 days. When the results returned, he dove into the tree-structure dataset to observe the individual nodes, the sender and receiver IDs and hash keys and order volumes.

Jeremy pinged Happnstance in Discord - Hey, send me that mapping code for blocks to IP addresses?

Happnstance shot back a zipped file, with the added message, Taking a deep-sea dive, huh?

Jeremy pinged back, Thnx. Going whale hunting. 

Mapping IP addresses from the Mithral chain wasn’t easy, but Happnstance’s code was ingenious; he essentially analyzed network activity and created a probabilistic model to link the transactions with originator client servers. 

As Jeremy loaded up the file, he bit his nails on one hand and blinked hard, trying to keep himself awake. 

The file ran, spitting out a list of addresses and transaction codes to a spreadsheet. Jeremy honed in on the line items of interest, from the user who had purchased over 2.1 million Mithral in the past week, and marveled at the associated array of IP addresses. 

Whoever was shorting the stock was doing so from a network, like a consolidated team. An investment team. 

Jeremy pasted several of the IP addresses into a web identifier; the geo-locations were all the same. 

A quick Google search of the coordinates turned up the address 375 Greenwich Street, New York, NY. 

Silverman Associates Global Headquarters, read the label below the address. 

Jeremy felt his stomach hoisted to his throat. In the same moment, a ping came through from Happnstance. 

SEC just released decision….

Jeremy leaned into his monitor and squinted; FiGuy’s status was still red. Ignoring Happnstance, he navigated to the messaging chain with FiGuy and banged out a hasty message, 

Hey, what’s up with Silverman shorting Mithral? Are those guys on a different team or something?

Another message came through from Happnstance. Guess mom and dad won’t be putting Mithral in their 401k now….

Jeremy took a few short breaths before clicking over to his price terminal. He blinked, hard, to make sure his vision wasn’t blurry and betraying him. 

The Mithral price was $650. Every few seconds the number would flash, a harsh and menacing red, and show something lower. 


For the first time in thirteen hours, he took off his headphones; his ears felt immediately sore, like they had been released from the grip of Satan. 

Headline notifications began to pop up in the bottom right of his monitor.

CNBC: SEC Denies Approval of Mithral ETF, Cautions Investors Against ‘Crypto-Mania’

Fox News: SEC’s Gensler Calls Mithral ‘Dangerous’ Asset, Says Token Needs More Investigation

He clicked into the next headline, a Reuters piece which read Silverman Associates Issues Statement on SEC’s Mithral ETF Disapproval…

Jeremy’s fingers twitched over the keyboard as he read the statement. 

“Silverman Associates have always urged our clients to diversify portfolios and lean into innovation. We support the SEC’s caution in approving Mithral as an ETF-financing option and have appropriately hedged our portfolios for such a decision….”

Jeremy suddenly felt like he was suffocating in his rocketship; the air was getting thin. He rushed to the opposite end of the room and tossed open the curtain, letting in a stream of sunlight. He slid open the door to his balcony and stepped out, feeling suddenly dizzy from the altitude, his abdomen floating in his groin. 

Far below, the streets of Manhattan teemed with humanity; decrepit, loud, middling humanity. 

He let the sunlight soak his pallid skin and closed his eyes, imagining himself rocketing closer and closer to the great burning star.

June 26, 2021 03:17

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A.Dot Ram
20:50 Jun 30, 2021

Icarus! This was fun. You went so deep into the finance world that I didn't understand line by line, but I get the gist. An admirable feat.


Brendan Doyle
20:29 Jul 04, 2021

Thank you so much for reading! Yes I may have gone too technical in certain places, great feedback :)


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