Tag Archives: RenewBank

The Inklings: Chapter 96

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

When D’arby was about halfway to work he sat down on a brick wall, took the parcel out of his backpack and examined it. It was in one of the carboard boxes that they sold at the post office and it had stamps on it, but D’arby couldn’t see a postmark.

D’arby rattled the box but it didn’t make any sound. D’arby sniffed the parcel, but it only smelt like cardboard.

D’arby wondered for a minute whether he should take the parcel to Sonia and get her to open it, but decided against it. Although he was a little bit worried that it might explode or contain a listening device, D’arby thought it most likely was that the parcel was meant to be seen by him on his own.

There was stickytape holding the box closed so D’arby cut it using a key. Then D’arby gently opened the box. Inside there was a white envelope and inside the envelope were photos. The photos were of people entering and leaving the secret RenewBank office plus some photos of D’arby at his desk and of everyone having lunch in the rooftop garden. D’arby could easily see the significance of these photos – they meant that someone knew where the real RenewBank work was being done, and who was doing it, and if they knew that they could know more. What D’arby didn’t understand was what the motivation was for sending him the photos, and then it occurred to him that there might still be a note hiding somewhere in the box or envelope. D’arby shook the envelope and out came a folded-up piece of paper. The note said:

“I was commissioned to find out what RenewBank is really up to, and I did. What will RenewBank pay me to keep this quiet? I will contact you tomorrow with payment details”

D’arby put the note and photos back into his backpack and continued walking to the official office. The sense of urgency D’arby felt made him want to run but he knew there was no point getting to the office before 7:30am so he walked, and tried to calm himself down by concentrating on his breathing.

At the official office D’arby calmly followed the usual security procedures and Sonia didn’t notice that anything was wrong, but as soon as D’arby was on the way to the secret office he rode his bike as fast as he could, and managed to arrive at the secret office just before 8am.

Nobody else had arrived yet so D’arby had to wait. He went to his desk and looked at the photos and tried to work out where they’d been taken from. Some were taken from above and some were on street level so D’arby guessed they must have been taken from different levels of a building across the street. D’arby looked out the window and saw that there was a ‘For Lease’ sign in the building directly opposite. Then he looked down and noticed that Rudnika and Leopold were both approaching the office. D’arby ran downstairs to meet. He showed them the photos and told them how they’d been left for him by a mysterious man early that morning.

When Carol and Valentine arrived Rudnika gathered everyone together around the meeting table. After D’arby explained what had happened and everyone had looked at the photos it was time to decide what to do.

“I think we need to move the office today” said Leopold. “If we do it before whoever took the photos shares them with whoever commissioned them then things might be ok.”

“Yes, we should move today, but we also need to find out who took these photos and who they were taken for” said Rudnika.

“Can’t we just see how much money they want? It might be cheaper to pay than to move” said Valentine.

“We could pay, but how do we know that will be the end of it?” said Rudnika. “And how do we know they won’t tell anyone else about us?”

“Why would someone try to sell us photos they had taken for someone else?” asked Carol.

“This is why we need to find out who did this” said Rudnika. “Then we will know what we are up against. But first we need to move and we need to make sure nobody manages to follow us.”

Rudnika packed the photos and the note back into the envelope and postbox and put it into her bag.

About an hour later a moving van arrived and everyone had to help load all the RenewBank stuff into it. Then the van drove away and Rudnika took everyone to a café down the street to discuss what was going to happen next. Rudnika had organized for the van to disappear into a busy industrial area, where their stuff would be moved to a different van and taken to the new office. The new office wasn’t far away. Rudnika told them the address and made everyone memorise it because she didn’t wany anyone to write it down. Nobody was going there today though. For the rest of the day they were going to investigate how someone had managed to find out where the secret office was, who had found out and why they’d done it. They brainstormed for ways to find answers and then divided the tasks up and set off. D’arby and Rudnika were going to work together, Carol and Valentine were another team and Leopold was going to work on his own. D’arby was pleased with this because he wanted to get to know Rudnika better and because the first thing they were going to do was investigate the empty building across the road. Rudnika was sure that the ‘For Lease’ sign hadn’t been there on Friday.

D’arby was expecting that Rudnika would pick the lock so they could sneak into the building and have a secret look around but instead she lead the way to the Real Estate agent that was managing the property and pretended that she was interested in leasing it.

The agent was a man called Ross who tried to get them to come back at 3pm because that’s when he’d organized to show another potential tenant around. D’arby had suspected that something like that might happen and turned to Rudnika to see how she would deal with it.

“That’s unfortunate” said Rudnika. “We have a tight deadline and need to decide on an office space by 2pm today. If you think that showing us the office before 3pm is a waste of your time then you must not be very confident that we will want to lease it, which is fine because my colleagues are looking at other places this morning so we will just take one of those instead.” Then Rudnika paused for a couple of seconds before handing her mobile phone to D’arby and saying “Can you please call Valentine and let him know that if the Bourke Street office is ok that we will go with it”

D’arby didn’t really know how to use the phone and he definitely didn’t know how to call Valentine so instead he called the number of his old flat and wondered how many times he should let it ring before pretending that Valentine had answered.

“If you do that you will miss out on a great office space” said Ross, who was trying to sound calm but gave away his anxiety by speaking too fast. “It feels unfair to show it to you before the person booked in for 3pm, but it is my duty to get the best tenant for the place so I will get the keys and take you there now”

When Ross turned away to go and get the keys Rudnika winked at D’arby. D’arby gave Rudnika back her phone and smiled. He was glad he hadn’t had to deal with Ross on his own.

As they walked down the street towards the vacant building Ross pretended to be friendly and asked lots of questions but even D’arby could tell that Ross was just trying to find out what sort of tenants they’d be. Rudnika gave polite answers but soon took control of the direction of the conversation by asking Ross about the previous tenant and why they’d left.

D’arby could tell that Ross was trying to think of how to put a good spin on his answer. “Lawrence ran a successful investment business and I was going to enjoy having him as a tenant” said Ross. “But his mother became sick on Friday and he had to leave in a hurry to go and look after her in Perth”

“The owner must be in a hurry to lease the property then, after the sudden loss of rental income” said D’arby. He was hoping the question would annoy Ross.

“Well, actually Lawrence paid the rent in advance for the whole 5 years so there is no pressure to fill the building for another 4 years and 11 months” said Ross, sounding a bit smug.

D’arby was feeling pretty clever for having tricked Ross into giving away how long Lawrence had been in the building.

Ross unlocked the front door and while he was disarming the alarm Rudnika watched but D’arby started looking around. D’arby took note of the view from the downstairs windows and was sure that this was the building where the photos of people entering the RenewBank office had been taken from. He was keen to see the view from upstairs and so didn’t pay much attention when Ross started explaining the facilities downstairs. Rudnika was more interested. There was a bathroom and kitchen downstairs and she wanted to see them both.

D’arby watched Ross and Rudnika walk into the kitchen and then he rushed upstairs. There were two windows that faced towards the Renewbank Office. D’arby noticed that one had a dusty window sill and the other didn’t so he looked out the window with the clean sill. He could see into the office where he, Valentine and Carol had been working and there was also a clear view of the roof garden.

“It is a nice view, isn’t it?” said Ross.

D’arby got a bit of a fright but tried to pretend he hadn’t.

“There is a lot of dust” said D’arby and he ran his finger along the dusty window sill.

“I haven’t actually been in here since Lawrence left but I will forgive him for not having taken time to clean when he was so worried about his mother. If it is an issue I can organize for a cleaner to come through before you move in” said Ross.

“Ok” said D’arby and he looked towards the stairs, wondering where Rudnika was.

Ross noticed and said “She’s using the bathroom”.

D’arby doubted that Rudnika was really using the bathroom and realised that he should try to keep Ross busy.

“Do you know how old the building is?” asked D’arby.

“Not sure exactly” said Ross. “More than 100 years old though. But the owner had the wiring and plumbing redone a couple of years ago and there aren’t any leaks”.

D’arby asked a few more questions and Ross dutifully answered before Rudnika came upstairs.

“Thank you Ross. This is a very nice space” said Rudnika. “I need to talk to my colleagues to find out about the places they have looked at before I can apply for this place. I will get back to you in 30 minutes. Will you be back at your office then?” asked Rudnika.

Ross looked at his watch and said “Yes. Don’t waste any time though. 2pm is approaching fast.”

Rudnika smiled then turned and hurried downstairs. D’arby said goodbye to Ross and then followed Rudnika.

When they got outside Rudnika put her arm out to attract a taxi and she and D’arby hopped in. D’arby was surprised when Rudnika asked the driver to take them to the police station, but he didn’t want to ask what was going on infront on the taxi driver.

When they got out of the taxi infront of the police station Rudnika said “I have a friend here who is going to help us. You wait outside and I’ll be back in 10 minutes”.

D’arby didn’t like standing out the front of the police station because the people who came and went tended to glare at him. Fortunately Rudnika returned as quickly as she’d said she would.

“What’s going on?” asked D’arby.

“I lifted some fingerprints and a friend is going to check them” said Rudnika.

“How did you do that?” asked D’arby. “And won’t your friend get into trouble?”

“Make-up and stickytape, and no he won’t get into trouble because he is investigating identity crime, and I bet the person spying on us didn’t use their real identity” said Rudnika.


The Inklings: chapter 88

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

D’arby finally finished recording his voice just before lunchtime on Thursday. He couldn’t wait to start his real work. He was pleased to discover that a desk had been prepared for him in the same room that Carol and Valentine worked and hoped that meant he’d get to know what they were working on.

In the past couple of days D’arby had decided that he’d be happy working for RenewBank even if he was just a decoy, as long as he knew that the business was doing good things. D’arby was going to meet with Leopold after lunch and learn what his work was going to be.

Valentine invited D’arby to the rooftop garden for lunch with him and Carol. D’arby had eaten his lunch alone in the recording room the last couple of days and had been feeling very lonely so he was happy to accept the invitation. D’arby also had lots of questions he wanted to ask.

“How long have you both been working here?” said D’arby as soon as he and Carol and Valentine had sat down at the table in the rooftop garden.

“Two weeks” said Valentine and Carol added “Me too. We started on the same day. We don’t get to do such exciting stuff as you though – sneaking in and out of the official office must be fun.”

“It isn’t that exciting after the first couple of times” said D’arby. “I reckon it will eventually become a bit of a bore, like having to change from a train to a bus on the way to work. And it will eat into the time I have for my real work”

“It isn’t a waste of time though. It is valuable to be making the people who are spying on RenewBank think that we don’t know about it. It protects our work from their interference” said Carol.

“Yeah, I know” said D’arby. “What are you two working on?”

“Nothing much” said Valentine, with a chuckle. “Just building a model of the economy, financial system and energy supply”.

D’arby’s eyes must have started sparkling with excitement.

“Eventually we will use this model to fine-tune the business plan” said Carol. “Leopold keeps talking about how important it is to prevent perverse outcomes in the transition from the current system to a new, better one.”

“It all sounds so ambitious!” said D’arby. “And so exciting! Are you allowed to talk to anyone outside work about it?”

“No way!” said Carol and Valentine at the same time.

“We can’t let anyone know what’s coming because if the banks and energy businesses knew what we wanted to do they would try their best to stop us. Leopold and Rudnika have identified lots of places where we are at risk.”

“What is the plan for RenewBank anyway? What’s this ‘better system’?” asked D’arby.

“The exact plan will depend on the modelling results but roughly the plan is to create a new, stable alternative currency and a bank that uses this currency and that only renewable energy customers can use. RenewBank will also build and run renewable energy projects and everything will be customer-owned. What makes this so dangerous is that all the modelling so far indicates that doing such a thing will destabilize the big banks and the non-renewable energy generators. So we need to find a way that doesn’t crash the economy before RenewBank can get big enough to support it” said Carol.

“I can see the reason for renewable energy, but what’s the point of the alternative currency?” asked D’arby. He thought he knew the answer because the plan was close to what he’d been thinking about, but he wanted to be sure.

“Not to make money, for sure” said Leopold. “Everything will be customer owned. The point is to force the move to renewable energy and to create form of money that isn’t based on debt. Leopold and Rudknika want to do more than that, but that’s the main aim. I guess they also want to pull the rug out from underneath the people who’ve made themselves rich at the expense of everyone else and especially those who’ve been corrupting our democracy.”

D’arby smiled. He was happy that Rudnika and Leopold could be so confident in such a wild plan, but at the same time he wondered how they could pay everyone’s salary without the business having any income so he asked Carol and Valentine whether they knew how they were being funded.

“Rudnika sold a couple of properties she inherited to pay to get everything started” said Valentine.

D’arby smiled again. It was scarier to be part of something that was self-funded because there wasn’t that reassurance you get when someone is so convinced in your plans that they give you their money. D’arby had many more questions he wanted to ask but Leopold came up onto the roof because he was ready to show D’arby what he’d be working on.

Leopold showed D’arby some databases and spreadsheets he’d started that he wanted D’arby to continue working on and he explained how they fitted in with what Carol and Valentine were working on. All three were adding details to different parts of the model and in a month or so they’d run scenarios using the complete model. After that it would be an iterative process – using the model to discover weaknesses and then improving the model and looking at the effects of different assumptions.

D’arby was so impatient to start working on the model that his fingers started drumming on the desk. Leopold suggested he start by reading a document that explained the work done so far and then there was a spreadsheet to finish and lots of pieces of research were needed to fill in gaps in the model.

“Any questions?” asked Leopold.

“What work is the official D’arby at the official office doing?” asked D’arby.

“Something similar, but all wrong. We are leaking a model that shows that RenewBank must stay small in order to work and the currency aspect will just be Loyalty Points. Hopefully that keeps people off our backs” said Leopold.

D’arby felt like the afternoon disappeared. He was so engrossed in his work that Rudnika had to remind him to go home by pointing out that Sonia couldn’t go home until D’arby had left the official office.

“What’s the earliest I can arrive at the official office tomorrow?” asked D’arby

As Rudnika told D’arby that Sonia would be ready for him to arrive by 7:30am she made a mental note that finding another person to share Sonia’s job should be given high priority. Sonia had said that she didn’t mind the long hours but Rudnika knew that it was not sustainable and if Sonia got sick Rudnika would have to close the official office and D’arby would have to stay home.

As D’arby walked home that evening he felt happy and excited but also frustrated because he hadn’t been able to take any work home with him and he realized that he wouldn’t even be able to make notes at home.

When D’arby got home Syafika and Fanta were deep in conversation about someone calle Celine. D’arby realized he was really hungry and had a look in the kitchen so see if anything was cooking. It looked like Fanta had been interrupted while preparing dinner so D’arby washed his hands and then continued chopping ingredients while reading the recipe that Fanta had left on the kitchen bench.

The Inklings: Chapter 85

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

D’arby had given himself 40 minutes to walk the 2.5 kilometres to work because it was in an area he was unfamiliar with and because Rudnika had stressed the importance of him being there on time. She’d actually instructed D’arby that there was a 6 minute window in which it was acceptable to arrive – from 8:27am to 8:33am, but because D’arby had been half asleep when he’d heard this he had only registered the message that he be there on time, and not the details about the 6 minute time window.

As D’arby walked he held the map he’d drawn on a scrap of paper and because he was feeling nervous he kept checking the map, even though he’d memorized the route.  D’arby was nervous because he didn’t want to disappoint but he had no way of gauging whether he was going to be able to do the job well, and he really wanted to do it well because he could see it was going to be important.

When D’arby turned into the street of his new workplace he noticed that the back of his neck felt cold. He thought he heard someone say “Careful!” but there was nobody in the street. Then he noticed a galah sitting in a tree. The Galah looked D’arby in the eye and raised its crest. Then another galah launched itself from a tree on the other side of the road and flew past so close to D’arby’s head that he ducked.

D’arby turned around to check that there was nobody behind him and looked up at the windows of the houses in the street to see if anyone was looking out, but he didn’t see any faces. Then he looked at his watch and saw that he was 15 minutes early. He continued to walk along the street until he was outside the address Rudnika had given him. It was the second of a group of five terrace houses that were bordered on one side by a laneway and the other side by a small park. The only indication that D’arby was at the right place was a small brass plaque next to the front door saying “RenewBank”. None of the other houses in the street appeared to be businesses and D’arby wondered whether Rudnika had started the business from her house. D’arby wondered if this was why the job application process and testing had all been done online – to hide the modest nature of the business. D’arby looked at his watch again and saw that he was ten minutes early so he walked back to the little park and decided to sit down and wait until 8:29am.

As D’arby sat he looked around him. The back of the park opened onto a laneway and D’arby wondered whether the park had once been another terrace house because it looked like it was the same size as the other houses in the street. D’arby looked across the road at the houses that faced RenewBank and he thought he noticed the curtains move in one of them, but there was no other sign of anyone being home. He listened for sounds of life and could hear the faint sound of music, but couldn’t tell which house it was coming from.

At 8:29 and 45 seconds D’arby opened the front gate of RenewBank, walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. Rudnika answered the door almost immediately and shook D’arby’s hand warmly, then ushered him inside.

Rudnika took D’arby upstairs to meet Sonia, who seemed to be working at four computers at once. D’arby felt like asking lots of questions but Rudnika seemed to be in a hurry and told D’arby to come with her so she could show him his desk. She showed him to the room opposite Sonia’s and gave him a piece of paper then put her finger to her mouth, indicating that she wanted him to not say anything.

The curtains of the room were closed and so D’arby had to strain his eyes to read what was on the paper. It said “Do not say anything or ask any questions. This building has been bugged. When I say something just answer ‘Ok’ and then follow me”.

“So here is where you will be working” said Rudnika. “The computer is all set up and ready to go. Here are some reports you should read. They will probably take you a week to get through. I need to get back to my desk now because I am expecting a phone call. My office is downstairs – please come and have a chat in an hour. The bathroom and kitchen are downstairs too.”

Then Rudnika motioned for D’arby to follow her and they crept downstairs and into a room full of bookshelves. Rudnika went up to one of the shelves and slid it aside to reveal a hidden door. D’arby looked at Rudnika and raised an eyebrow. She was pleased that he seemed to think this was exciting.

Rudnika opened the door and when they had both walked through she quietly closed it. D’arby realized that they were now in the house next door. Rudnika took D’arby down the hall to the kitchen and closed the door.

“We can talk now” said Rudnika. “Would you like a quick cup of tea before we leave for the real office?”

D’arby tried to say “Yes” but his words seemed to have dried up so he nodded. There were so many questions he wanted to ask that he was having trouble getting any of them out of his brain.

“We have about ten minutes.  Ask me any questions” said Rudnika as she made the tea.

“How do you know next door is bugged? Who would do that? How do you know this buiding is safe? What if there are cameras watching you too? Why would anyone believe that you are working next door if there’s nobody there to make any noise? What does Sonia do?”

Rudnika laughed and gave D’arby his cup of tea. D’arby was pleased that it was black without sugar and wondered how Rudnika knew that was what he liked. Hers had milk in it.

“Sonia is very busy all day pretending to be many people at once. She will have to pretend to be you too now. When we get to the real office I will need you to record yourself saying lots of words and phrases so Sonia can use them to make the fake D’arby have a conversation with the fake Rudnika in an hour. Sonia checks all three buildings for bugs and cameras every morning. It is difficult to pretend to be working here everyday when really we work somewhere else, but it is worth it because while they are busy listening to this building here we have control over what they think we are doing – we can throw them off track” explained Rudnika

“Who?” asked D’arby

“That’s a tougher question. The people watching us from across the road are spies for hire so are probably working for one of the big banks, or maybe for all of them. We aren’t sure who is listening to us though” said Rudnika and then she quickly drank the rest of her tea.

“Please wash the cups while I check that the coast is clear” said Rudnika. While D’arby washed the cups he watched Rudnika open one of the kitchen cupboards and turn on a set of monitors that were hidden inside. There must have been cameras watching the side and back lanes as well as the front of the house. D’arby realized that this building was next to the side lane.

Rudnika showed D’arby the monitor showing the back lane and pointed to the upstairs window of the house on the other side of the lane. D’arby could vaguely see someone moving and Rudnika explained that there was often someone there watching the back door of the official office next door and that sometimes she went out and sat in the backyard there to give the spy something to look at.

Then Rudnika carefully checked the view of the side lane. There were no windows overlooking it and nothing seemed to be happening there.

“Don’t talk until I say” said Rudnika and they walked to the back door of the house. It opened onto a covered area, and there was a screen blocking the view from the house across the back lane. Rudnika picked up two bicycle helmets that were hanging on the wall and handed D’arby one. There were two bikes leaning against the side fence and D’arby noticed that there was a gate in the side fence that led onto the side lane. Rudnika opened the gate and rode out, across the side lane and away along the back lane. D’arby followed, trying hard to steer the bike straight and hoping that they didn’t have to ride on any busy roads.

The real office of RenewBank was in the next suburb. It was above a café and had a roof garden. D’arby couldn’t stop smiling as Rudnika showed him around. Leopold was there too and there were two other new employees called Carol and Valentine.

As promised, D’arby’s first task was to record himself saying lots of different things. Rudnika took D’arby to a small sound-proof room and pointed out that he wasn’t going to have time to create a comprehensive library of recordings but it would be enough to make it sound like he was working at the official office that day. The recordings were put on a USB drive and sent by bicycle courier to the Official Office, where Sonia quickly created a convincing conversation between Rudnika and D’arby. Then D’arby had to continue recording more words and phrases, and he had to repeat many of them while pretending to feel different emotions. At the end of the day he was still not finished and realized he’d have to spend at least the next day doing the same thing.

When the working day was over Leopold and Rudnika reminded D’arby that he was not to tell anyone about what he was doing at work or where the real office was. Rudnika gave him a key to the official office and told him that tomorrow he could let himself in and then they would repeat the trip they’d made that morning but that after that he could make the trip on his own because Rudnika preferred to get to the real office a bit earlier.

“What time do Carol and Valentine arrive at the official office?” D’arby asked. He was wondering whether he’d be able to ride with them sometimes.

“Carol and Valentine aren’t official employees” explained Rudnika “So they don’t have to pretend to work at the official office. They just come straight here”

This news hurt D’arby but he didn’t say anything. As he and Rudnika rode back to the official office D’arby wondered whether his job was going to be a real one or whether he was just a decoy. He desperately wanted to know what Carol and Valentine were going to be working on. He’d wanted to talk to them that day but they hadn’t been there at lunchtime.

Rudnika and D’arby snuck back into the official office the same way they’d left and then D’arby was free to leave by the front door and walk home. As he walked he felt really sad. He’d had such a strange and exciting day but he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it.


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