“As you say, Hacker, these are strange times. All bets are off. Now, what’s the big story? Late-breaking news, dude. Give it to me. I know you’re tuned in. Know you got your sources. I’ve been out of the news loop lately.”
“Okay, Marty, here are the headlines. Our environmental crisis was coming to a head of its own accord, the droughts, the warming, the glaciers melting, the sea levels rising, the fires, the whole shot. Volcanoes erupting. Earthquakes. Running out of water. You know. Then a few months ago some new people suddenly made the scene—Black Swan Galactic. They decided to exploit the situation and make it even worse. They blackmailed governments for huge amounts of money so they could do their thing, which is this cockamamie scheme to launch a satellite and live forever, or explore the solar system, or something.”
“Uh, Hacker, my man, you must know from your intrusion, uh, your surveillance of my meeting with Jill that we discussed the Black Swan business. So tell me something I don’t know about these creeps.”
Hacker exhaled long and deeply, took a short time-out to munch on his dinner. “Okay, Marty, you asked for it. This is what I found out on HNN, the Hacker News Network. Black Swan Galactic Limited is registered and incorporated in Geneva. They have offices all over the place: in Moscow, in London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, New York, Mexico City, you name it. They started out a few years ago as a group of wealthy investors who made a lot of money in the international markets and especially in currency trading, and gave huge donations to environmental causes. But that was just a front.”
“A front for what?”
“For their real business, which is to fuck up the planet, scare the bejeezus out of the politicians, blackmail their ass, take the money and run. To outer space. They got some crazy space travel agenda. Marty, do you know what ‘Black Swan’ means?”
“No, not really,” I said. I remembered that Jill had some intel on the Black Swan thing, but she was vague on it. “Is there such a thing as a black swan?” I asked my friend. “I thought all swans were white.”
“That’s just the point. Black swan is all about the unpredictable. The unexpected. You can assume that all swans are white, but if you just see one black swan, it disproves the whole friggin’ thing.”
I shook my head. “What the fuck are you talking about, Hacker? What do swans have to do with an environmental crisis?”
“Okay, my man, here’s the intel I got from my hacker network. A few years ago a former Wall Street hotshot named Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called The Black Swan. According to this book, life is totally unpredictable. Just about anything really significant that happens—historically, personally, whatever—is a black swan event. Something really game-changing. Usually catastrophes. Nine Eleven, for example. The atom bomb we dropped on Hiroshima. The stock market crash of 1929. Political assassinations in the Sixties.
“In short, a black swan event is an unexpected event that has a major impact on the world. In other words, shit happens. Life can never be the same again.”
Hacker stopped and took several deep breaths. “So this book is their bible. These freakin’ billionaires and power-mad bigshots who think they can do whatever they want and fuck the rest of the world. They think they can create black swan events, and, by the way, live forever. They’re all taking some weird drug called EMC-2. They think it jacks up their cells and gives them eternal life. This stuff has weird and unpredictable side effects, like boosting testosterone levels. You know what that means: unchecked male aggression. One of the core problems on this planet for thousands of years.
“So. Black Swan Galactic Limited. That’s who they are. They are very interested in your psychically gifted wife. And they have got her pretty ass under lock and key right now, according to my surveillance data. So if you, my friend, and my ex-girlfriend, Jill, are headed for Europe to try to find Leela, you are headed right into the lion’s mouth.”