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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 76 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

"How much are we talking about?"

First Prince Hanse Davion asked.

Max cleared his throat, "Elizabeth?" he invited.

Elizabeth activated the projector. "The actual amounts are easier to express using scientific notation." she stated. "this is due to the sheer extent of the theft we've uncovered so far, and that's just within the Lyran member-state. In simpler terms, ones that will be understood by non-specialists, estimated losses to this are between two point one times ten to the twelfth power, and five times ten to the twelfth power Kroner per fiscal quarter nationally...and that is our lowball estimate."

He looked confused, "Excuse me? can you put that in people terms?"

She sighed, and lit a whiteboard.

2.1 x 1012

2.1x 10,000,000,000,000


"Is that clearer, Your Highness? Every three months, that is the minimum estimated losses to the gross domestic product of the Lyran Commonwealth Member State, over-and-above the textbook average of around five to fifteen percent waste, ordinary fraud, and ordinary levels of corruption that is expected in a national economy of this scale....or, you can call it twice the [Federated Commonwealth]]'s total military budget for fiscal year 3049, including the Navy programme...and I anticipate, based on economic modeling, that a similar examination in the Federated Suns will yield significantly similar numbers, given that your half of the realm suffers from significant lags in economic growth and prosperity despite having a larger number and variety of industrial producers in lucrative markets, however, it's going to be much more difficult, as you don't have a tradition of central tax accounting and good records, nor a robust banking industry with our level of accounting standards, which suggests that we'll find more losses if you agree to cooperate in this cross-national audit proposal."

"what about the perpetrators?" He asked.

"Well, we're still working on who, Highness. We KNOW the money is going somewhere, we're fairly sure a significant portion is going to the SAME source, as the losses coordinate in a manner that suggests someone's centralized efforts are behind it...what we don't have, is a suspect for who it is running the operation. Presumably when the perpetrators are found, they will be subject to whatever national laws happen to apply at the time-our goal is more or less to stop the losses and recover the money. I believe that making the arrests and holding trials will be something more in line with Traditional security forces and arrangements."

"We are, after all, only the tax agency." Max chimed in, "We are not police, our investigation is by definition one that requires a separation from that role. Tax evasion and embezzlement are crimes that are handled by the Judicial process-we only find them, we do not prosecute."

"How long has this been going on?" Archon Melissa Steiner-Davion asked.

Max glanced at his assistant, then spoke, "When I joined the Exchequer as a young man in 3015, your Majesty, one of the first cases I stumbled across led me to the crime we are briefing you on today. It was common knowledge that the realm was hemorrhaging money back then, but it was accepted as a...necessary evil? I do not think my superiors at the time quite grasped the sheer scope of the losses, as a matter of fact, I didn't until Miss Ngo broke it down for me using her mathematical gifts...and that was at a point where we thought the losses were a thousand times smaller than we have uncovered in the last year."

"What if this is NOT a single actor?" Hanse asked, "How would it work?"

Max glanced at Elizabeth, who nodded, and brought up a slide, "It would have to involve very nearly every peer of the realm." she said, "With their staff, and most of the civil service and military officials. The level of corruption necessary would require a majority of senior military and political leadership stealing between twenty and fifty percent of the budget annually-they would either have to have an organizational culture that accepts this as their due, and subordinates who then steal a similar portion at each level below them also thinking it is their due...for generations."

"Why would they need to believe that?", Hanse asked.

"Guilty consciences make mistakes." Liz stated, "We would have uncovered more visible incidents of corruption and graft, because people who believe what they are doing is illegitimate will tend to blunder in trying to hide it...the problem is, our blunderers aren't enough to account for the massive losses we're seeing. It's ice-in-a-water-ocean as a problem, the tiny piece sticking up we can see is a fraction of the problem we can't see...but that problem is massive enough to tear the keel out of a boat well away from the visible ice. the side effects in this case, are economic shockwaves that have crippled economic recoveries and strangled economic activity...but we do not have a perpetrator because there are so many possible perpetrators, a survey of the Federated Suns side may shed light on whether this is a national, or international, problem."

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