The ISDA Protocol

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Signum flipped the safety on his piece and placed it on the table. He lifted his hand and stepped back slooow. “See? We’re cool, Felix; it’s all cool. Safe. We’re off the record. For old time’s sake.”
Felix regarded the Dictaphone™. He played it aloof. “Automatic. Five-speed. Nice gat, Martin. I — I’m impressed.”
When he sat back, Felix dissolved into the darkness behind the desk lamp. Only his specs caught a gleam. There was devil in them: a thin, piss-streaked, amber bead of the satanic.
Martin swallowed. “We are tracking a cache of FWMDs. We know they made it into the EU. We believe they used a CP conduit.”
“But how? The perimeter — it’s — I mean, the borders are MiFID patrolled for Chrissakes ...”
“Reverse enquiry into Liechtenstein —”
Felix whistled.
“Look, these guys are professionals. They know what they’re doing.” Signum smiled. “But we picked them up. We traced them.”
“Oh?” Now, Felix leaned forward; his eyes, suddenly fierce. “How?”
“Down the clearing chain. But the trail went cold. Dark pool in Estonia.”
Felix sat back. “Yes, well I suppose that happens in the Baltic. But what has this got to do with me? What makes you think ...”
You move in these circles, Felix.
“I —”
Don’t bullshit me, man. We both know you do. You can help.”
“Information. It’s all I want.”
Felix tipped his head.
“This isn’t the normal plastic equity, Felix. This is hard stuff. CO2. Nitrous Oxide. This stuff kills people.”
“Emissions, huh?”
Collateralised freaking emissions, Felix.”
The old man looked away and sighed. “Yes.”
Signum shifted. He caught a vibe. “Wait a minute.”
“It is done, Martin. It’s too late. The trucks are rolling. But you have to admit, it is elegant.” Felix tittered. “We have extracted the pure delta of a pointless governmental permission to discharge greenhouse gases.”
The temperature dropped. Martin whistled. He let rip a jet of frosted air. “But ... that’s a derivative of…”
“Yes, exactly.”
“ air!
“Well, specifically, a derivative on an ineffective tax on the right to expel hot air.” Felix beamed.
“Oh. Right.”
“Only, it’s five times levered! And Martin?”
“That’s not even the best bit.”
“You mean, there’s more?”
“There’s more.” Felix licked his lizard lips. “The whole thing — every goddamn tranche; even the triple As — it’s all denominated in —”
Signum froze. “Oh, Jesus. You can’t be serious.”
Finally, that inscrutable mask gave way. “I can!” Felix’s features cracked and folded and rearranged themselves into a ghoulish grin. He threw back his head and guffawed.
“I can’t… it’s just… Oh, dear… It’s just –” He stopped, abruptly, and regarded his old protégé. “It’s priceless! Literally!” Once again the old broker erupted, gales of blackened laughter cascading from that gruesome maw. “You better hold on, Martin.”
“Hold on?”
For dear life!” Felix roared. It was only at that moment that Signum understood everything. The enormity; the horror; the forthcoming apocalypse. Bitcoin. They had denominated this goddamn thing in bitcoin.