Hakane took another drag off his cigarette in Somi Corporation’s breakroom, laughing at his colleague’s comment. It wasn’t so much their company discouraged smoking as that they wished to make sure their products were not contaminated. Given the delicacy of some of the prototypes, all respected this rule.
“Can you believe it, Atazaki?” he asked, flourishing his newspaper. “The US economy imploding like this? I’m an engineer, not at economist, but how in the world…”
“Call it belief; call it faith. Lose it, and your world ends,” his friend replied, looking at a domestic part of his own newspaper.
“What’s that?” What Hakane knew of politics could fit into a sake cup.
“Since the war,” for a Japanese, that meant only one thing, “the world economy had the US dollar as its reserve currency, backed, not by gold or silver, but by the faith – mind you – that the US will always be there!”
Atazaki glanced at the clock over the inner door and decided one more cigarette was in order.
“So now we find,” he said, pointing at Hakane’s paper with his lighter, “that as the American President is being removed via extra-Constitutional means, the Russians, Chinese, and Indians are rolling out a new currency… what’s it called?”
“The ria,” Hakane managed.
“Whatever. Backed by the gold they’ve been buying up for a generation, and indexed to oil. At that point, US dollars became valueless.”
Hakane was still confused. But why…
“Why is there rioting in the US? And getting worse so fast?”
Atazaki blew a blue-grey cloud toward the ceiling’s scrubbers.
“It’s a replay of what almost happened back in 2008: credit dries up, the velocity of money drops to zero.”
Atazaki realized his friend didn’t get a single word. He tried again.
“Credit cards stop working; all the zeros and ones in banks are gone, and, for the Americans,” he took another drag, “their food-welfare cards, whatever they’re called, stopped working.”
He exhaled again and sat back.
“All cities in the US are starving right now. And there is nothing… nothing at all, to stop it.”
Atazaki took another drag while looking out the window at bustling Osaka.
“They’re done for.” Quieter. “God help us; we’re all alone.”