The Blockchain Wars: Steem Cleaners Descend - Chapter 1 (Blockchain Sci-fi/Cyberpunk)

in #writing4 years ago (edited)


The Steem Cleaners huddled patiently in the armored vehicle, waiting for the signal to move in. Our target was somewhere inside Tokogawa Apartments - an old 20th century tower block which had been ceremoniously unveiled by the grandson of the former emperor. Now it was home to every assortment of criminal and low-life that downtown Tokyo had to offer.

Normally when a Steemit identity is forged, the whole process can be taken care of remotely. A signal is sent which invalidates the forged identity, stopping all ingoing and outgoing transactions. The forgery walks into his favourite bar and flicks his wrist at the barman, ordering a vodka-saki and a western beer to wash it down. The barman pours the drinks and serves them up, but when he scans the forgery’s wrist the transaction fails. The forgery tries his best not to look too embarrassed, and usually slinks out quietly.

Depending on the temperament of the bartender, the forgery might make it out of there with his wrist in tact. Many a barman in downtown Tokyo keeps an old butcher’s cleaver at his side - the kind that people used to chop up animals in the previous century. For every transaction that fails he takes a hand.

That kind of tough justice probably stemmed the flow of Steemit forgeries more than anything else, but sometimes the barmen got it wrong. During the process of a Steemit hardfork the blockchain could become temperamental. Ever since old Hatoshi in The Drunken Squid mistakenly took a hand off Chad Buterin - great grandson of the famous Ethereum inventor - the tendency for this kind of vigilantism cooled somewhat.

Now the forgers had found a new way to scam the blockchain. In the past five years or so the criminal contingent in Tokogawa apartments had converted the tower block into a dead-zone for satellite transmissions of any kind. The walls, roof and ground floor had all been lined with heavy sheets of lead. Nothing could get in or out, but short-range, P2P transactions could still take place within those four walls.

That meant a steady succession of visitors to the apartments - normal, everyday Rikus and Harus - who would come and buy the forged STEEM and SBD at reduced black-market prices. As soon as the minnow left the apartment building the delayed transaction would be confirmed, providing a neat loophole that the devs had not yet been able close.
The minnows are of little use to the Steem Cleaners; they’re just normal folk trying desperately to boost their SP, and after being slapped with a fine they’re usually let go. The Steem Cleaners only get called in for the big dogs, the crims with fat stacks of forged STEEM who can disrupt the economic ecosystem of the blockchain with just one or two double-spends. That’s why they call us the whale hunters.

Whales are a now extinct species of sea-mammal which were apparently highly treasured by collectors and perfumists in the previous century. Now they can only be seen in their skeletal form at one of the few remaining museums in Japan, yet ‘whale’ continues on as a nickname for those Steemians with large amounts of SP.

That’s what we were here for - a whale named @doctorjalapeno. Or at least, that’s the forged account we were looking for. The real Mr. Jalapeno was elsewhere, locked out of his account, waiting for it to be recovered - which he was fairly sure would happen. Steemians are basically anonymous, not requiring a link back to their real-world identity. However, people are only as anonymous as they choose to be. A quick scan of his Steemit blog revealed @doctorjalapeno to actually be Doctor Jurgen Lustig, a surgeon in Tokyo Central Hospital. Background checks revealed the doctor to have been tried twice by the medical association - both times for allegedly conducting black market surgeries in return for unsanctioned altcoins. Both times the cases were thrown out due to evidence either disappearing or being tampered with.

I knew this going in. I also knew that this wasn’t going to be a simple street thug; not if they were connected to the doctor - and I suspected they were.

In the armored vehicle all was silent. Twelve men strapped up and armed to the gills with the latest weaponry. Each bullet fired from these weapons was logged irretrievably on the blockchain, accompanied by a ballistics summary which detailed where the bullet was fired from, where it travelled, and where it landed. Because of this, the blockchain wars of 2108 were handled much more cleanly than those which came previously.

I looked out the tinted windows of the armored vehicle and saw a holo-ad float past in the sky - the kind that can only be seen from certain angles, depending on where you stand in relation to the atmospheric condensation. Of course, it doesn’t really matter where you stand now because the corporations flooded the atmosphere with these holo-ads, sending them out on preset routes from every angle imaginable - sure to be seen by anyone with eyes. This one had a flattering portrait of Old Uncle Sun, head of the TRX empire, accompanied by some glorious pronouncement or another about how TRON was still the best blockchain around.

Some believed Old Uncle Sun was just a kind of icon; an amiable character used to front the TRX conglomerate - based on the founder and original CEO of TRX back in the early 21st century. Others believed Uncle Sun was actually the original CEO himself, granted unnatural long life by some abominable tweak of code. One thing everybody was sure of was that the real Justin Sun had been a ruthless and opportunistic leader; a master of hype and marketing who could sell sand to the Arabs - a feat he actually pulled off when he sold thirty-billion tonnes of coarse Chinese sand to the Saudi King for use in his construction ventures. The one who catches the fish isn’t always the one who sells it, and Justin Sun had become a master at selling other people’s fish. While Buterin built his empire on providing the blockchain infrastructures that support our everyday lives, Sun had built his using hype. While Buterin retained the democratic and socialist ideals of his youth even into old age, Sun remained the same rampant capitalist he’d always been. When Buterin was found dead with a bullet in his skull - apparently fired by his own gun, more than one person voiced the scandalous notion that Justin Sun may have been involved.

That was all just hearsay. Titillating stories that people summon after too many drinks. I was looking at Yamamoto beside me, with his eyes closed in meditation, preparing for the violence that was to come. I began to ponder the notion that kids as young as Yamamoto probably think blockchain is as normal as the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, little did they know that there was once…

But I had to halt my thoughts there because the signal finally came through in my earpiece. The informant had come good - @doctorjalapeno was on the top floor, surrounded by his heavily armed friends. Move in; cautious but lethal. The yin and yang of my life.

“Alright you warugaki, it’s time to clean.”

With that I kicked open the door of the armored vehicle and the Steem Cleaners descended out into the Tokyo night. If you saw us you’d feel awe.


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