Brash was first out of the subway car and on to the platform. He bumped commuters out of the way, vaulting up the steps as he fought to lead them to the light above. This was where he came alive. The apartment was just where he ate and slept. He couldn’t even remember the pictures on the walls. It was here he came to do combat, to make money, to live. He breathed deep as his polished brogues hit the pavement beneath the street sign.

Wall Street.

At the corner he stopped to slap some imaginary lint from his D&G single-breasted cotton trench coat with his Cordovan leather gloves, shot his French cuffs and rolled his shoulders. Satisfied, he turned into the Canyon of Heroes then crossed the road before Trinity Church, feeling the chill in its deep shadow.

He pulled his Oliver Peoples spectacles from his coat pocket and slipped them on, waiting for the buzz to signal that the gesture recognition was live. He made a fist round the squeaking gloves and tapped out his access rhythm on his left hand with right thumb, index and middle finger.

Brash brought up the raid HUD. Top left was the green credit health bar. Beneath that sat ranking and stats compared to other raiding teams and reputation with the SEC. Along the lower edge lay icons for macros and bow. As he watched, the rank counter decreased by one. He sighed. They’d been stuck in the same slot for weeks. Working hard to keep that crappy place outside the top 30, cuspy, on the verge of The Big Score. He made fists and the gloves squeaked again.

Before the buddy list loaded, the right arm of the spectacles hummed. Ahead, on a bench half in shadow, sat a man wearing a glittering crown. Floating over his head, picked out in baby blue, was his name: Artur Haas.

Really? Here? Those orbiting dollar signs might not lie. But why was he handing out invites on the street? Brash licked his lips and hurried over, wondering all the while. His excitement dipped when he realised Artur, if it was him, had no tags describing his clothes or which season they were from. Maybe it was just a journalist looking for a tip to retire on.

Close up he realised why. A tailored charcoal pinstripe with six button cuffs and a classic English cut. The suit was epic, it spoke for itself, no tags needed. It was Artur Haas, the ‘H’ in NBH and boss of the Pit Vipers as NBH’s traders styled themselves. And here he was sponging up the warmth. One arm on the armrest and the other along the bench back seeming, by force of will, to bend the shadow cast by the church to leave his seat in the sun.

Artur smiled and the crown of dollar signs winked out.

“Hi! I’m Brad Shilton, Brash, when I’m on the floor. I’d like…”

“I bet you would.”

“What’s the deal?”

“Can’t say. It’s big though. Could be the making of someone, you, even. But you’re going to have to trust me. You’re either in or you’re out. What’s it to be? Are you going to step up or walk away?”

“I need…”

“Sorry, no conferring allowed. All you need to do is…,” he looked Brash up and down, “find your balls wherever they’re stowed in that get up, grab ‘em and make a decision.”

“Fine,” said Brash, stung. “I’m in.”

“Welcome,” said Artur. He smiled and held out his hand. “Welcome, Brash. It starts in 58 minutes. Let’s hope you never have a chance to regret this decision.”

They shook. Brash’s spectacles buzzed and jumped down his nose as Haas handed over data. The details flashed up and Brash did not even see Artur leave as he realised what he’d got. Artur could have mounted a dragon and flown away and he would have missed it. Today would be the day.

It took an age to reach the broad piazza in front of the Stock Exchange. His suit, cut for comfort not speed, held up his scurrying stride. When I’m really rich, he thought, I’ll employ someone to run for me 24/7 so I don’t have to.

Through the raid HUD the names hovering over the heads of everyone in the square looked like blue smoke. Don, Maggi and Pal were off to one side, they had snagged a good spot close to the edge of the archipelago of tables outside Friedman’s cafe in the piazza’s sunniest corner.

He approached and stood over them smiling.

Don looked Faustian thanks to his Van Dyke beard and charcoal suit. Maggi was witchy in black and inscrutable behind Gucci sunglasses. And Pal looked like a priest in Nehru jacket from Etro and a white collarless shirt buttoned tight about his neck.

“What?” they said when they noticed him.

“Today is going to be a very good day.”

“For what,” said Pal, “your breakdown?”

“So bitter, so young, my Asian friend. No. Because today I’m going to make you rich.”

“Richer,” Pal said. “We’re already rich.”

“The fuck are you talking about Brash?” said Maggi, an untouched double espresso in front of her.

“I’ve just realised I’ve never actually seen you eat or drink anything,” Brash said.

“Brash, just what is this about?” said Don.

“I’ve just met Artur Haas who, very kindly, asked me to help him with the Fortun8 IPO that’s happening in, oh…,” he glanced at his Rolex, “50 minutes or so.” He bumped a copy of the deal to them and sat back to enjoy the sight of their jaws dropping. All but Don.

“And he was just sitting there?” said Don.

“Large as life.”


“Chauffeur’s day off? Who knows? Who cares? This is it. The day we step up and play.”

“I don’t know,” said Don.


“Come on.”


“Because when I knew Art Haas he was an asshole and nothing I’ve seen or heard since makes me think he’s changed. He’s not doing you a favour. But I don’t know what’s in it for him.”

“Why shouldn’t we go for it?” Brash said. “Even if he has an agenda, so what? If we’re on the inside we’ll be able to do something about it. And, what else do we have today?”

“Well,” said Don, “Our reserves could be deeper, tend to our reputation, we’ve got a lot of customers to…”

Brash, Maggi and Pal groaned.

“Oh, please,” Maggi said, rolling her eyes. “We’ve been doing deals for others for too long. With this we’d get to make a market, set our own price, it’s too good to pass up.”

“Yeah, Don,” said Brash. “This is a chance in a million. Y’know there used to be a time when this,” he gestured round the piazza at all the other groups of four sitting at the cafe tables, “when all this, was pioneering, trail-blazing. Risky.”

“It still is,” Don said, “you could lose everything if you’re careless…”

“No, I mean risky like it might never work. That turning stock trading into a game, pretty much, might fail utterly. NBH, Merrill, Lehman and the others were sceptical as hell until…”

“…they saw the returns?” said Don.

“Right. Then they did it themselves and made a mint. And now, it’s the only game in town. But this chance Artur is holding out, that’s why we do it, it’s not the money. Well, not just the money. It’s the challenge, the way we stretch ourselves, satisfy that inner urge. Conquer our enemies. See them driven before us. Be, y’know…,” he coughed and looked away. “Be heroes.”

“This isn’t football, Brash,” said Don. “There’s more at stake than a shiny trophy.”

“I know, believe me, I know. And I know the difference. But I still think we should do it.”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah, you said that. Look, let’s take a vote. Decide as a group. Don, you’re a no, right?

“Wrong, I’m a maybe.

“Fine. Maggi?”

“Hell, yeah. I’m in.”

“Two to one, the…”

“I said I was a maybe, not a no.”

“Whatever. Pal? Pal?”


“Pay attention can’t you. Do we do this deal, boogie with Artur and his boys?”


“Pal! Just answer the damn question.”

“Sorry, I was distracted.”


“By what?” said Don.

“Fercrissakes!” said Brash, throwing up his hands.

“What’ve you seen?” asked Maggi.

“Breakfast,” said Pal, pointing.

In the corner of the piazza four figures, insubstantial in the sunlight, staggered as they hit the subsonics that kept pedestrians away from the SEC building.

“Who are they?”

“Must be tourists if they’re risking the Tower of Doom,” said Brash.

“French. Raiding team. In town to show us how it’s done, I’d guess,” said Don.

“How do you know?” asked Brash.

“All the tags on their clothes are French…,” said Don.

“Hold up,” said Pal. His eyes flicked back and forth as he read text scrolling inside the lenses of his Oliver Peoples spectacles. “Their traffic is tunnelling back to an address in, ahh, Paris. A bank. A big bank. BNP.”

They all looked at each other, then chorused: “Laaaag.”

“Enough?” said Brash. “Enough delay to put a pinch on them?”

“Should be,” said Pal. “Plus I can bounce some traffic off the server, slow it down more, put the freeze on them.”

“How about this,” Brash said. “Let’s hit these French interlopers and, if it goes well, then we do the raid with the Pit Vipers.”

“You’ll lead it?” said Don.

“Sure.” Brash swallowed. “I’ll direct. Give the orders.”

Don paused. “Okay. It goes well, we get back more than chump change, and you’re on.”

“I was born on. Okay.” Brash thought for a moment, feeling the thrill whirr like a flywheel behind his belt buckle. “Okay. First, we need a target. Something juicy to tempt them. Let’s work the boards.”

They sat silent, fingers flicking, as they combed through stock prices and ran analyses.

“Y’know,” said Brash, “this’d be much easier if we’d hooked up with Artur. Then we could set our own price and…”

“Shut up, Brash,” Don said.

Pal snorted. “Girls. Please. Hey, how about EDF?”

“Electricite De France?” said Don. “Well, the moving averages aren’t great but the spread is fine.”

“Just once,” Maggi said, “I’d like the price to be going down when we pitch a stock.”

“Which is why it might be perfect,” said Pal. “They’re not going to suspect anything with a rising average and so-so buy and sell prices. And as its EDF they’ll be holding the stock.”

“I’m sold,” said Brash. “Don, we need some customers with cash. Get on the boards, spread the word, we’ll also need other traders looking for a morning workout.”

“Maggi, you do the pull. Pal, get ready with your magic.”

“Already on it.”

“Okay. Alrighty then. I want this to be like clockwork, by the numbers. Smooth as silk.” They watched Don as he twitched and gestured in his seat getting the message out.

Brash decided to put a pinch on him. “Maggi,” he said, “by your leave.”

Don narrowed his eyes and mouthed a curse.

Maggi stood and stretched, arms tall above her head, then ran her fingers through her tumbling hair. Every man in the piazza turned to look. She sashayed away towards the Paribas team and for a moment Brash pitied them. Maggi’s little black Berardi dress did most of the work, but her legs helped. To be honest, Brash thought as he watched her walk away, she was a little heavy in the ass but it deepened the downstroke so, y’know, he told himself, it would be churlish to complain.

He tore his gaze away and said: “Pal, how we doing?”

“Locked and loaded.”


“We’ve got customers queueing up. Everyone wants a piece of the Frenchies.”

“Excellent. Pass them on.”

The left arm of Brash’s spectacles hummed and icons representing customers popped into place on the HUD. He called a halt at 20.

“Pal, get ready.”

In the distance, Maggi had reached the Frenchmen. For a moment they goggled, then got businesslike as she started talking. They moved into the classic diamond formation.

“They’re ready,” said Brash. The number 397, the letters EDF and a cartoon pylon appeared on his raid HUD.

Pal’s fingers drummed on his hand. “Their traffic is spiking.”

“Get in among that data stream, damn you, don’t just watch it. I want to be able to control it.”

“Brash?” It was Maggi. “Let’s go.”

Brash glanced down and tapped out commands. Icon after icon on the raid HUD, glowed and turned red.

“The queue of customers is live. They’re ready to buy.” he told Maggi. “Don?”

“Lots. As many as you want. We’ve got a big audience.”

“Excellent. Get them moving.” He laughed aloud. The flywheel surged and purred.

Brash saw Maggi glance down and her fingers flicker as the trading started. The four Frenchmen waved their hands like a mime troupe.

“Finger is on the trigger,” said Pal, “Just say the word.”

“Excellent.” Brash passed the customer details to Maggi who handed them on to the Paribas team.



“Don. Anytime you want to join in, feel free.”

“Stow it, junior. It’s happening.”



“I’m letting them make a few deals, to let them settle in.”



Brash felt sick as the stock price stuck on 409. For a long, long moment he wondered if he would ever live this down if it went to hell. Then.


The Frenchmen were frenzied. Maggi was smooth as a concert pianist, passing on the deals.

“Now, Pal. Freeze the fuckers.”





Then it shot up. Brash was lost in flux, fingers flying, hammering out the gestures to get the deals in.

“Okay, Pal. Ease off. Let them think it was a glitch.”





“Again,” said Brash.

About the Author

Mark Ward writes about technology for a living but writes fiction for the love of it. One day he hopes to swap the living for the love. He lives in Surrey, UK, with his wife and family. He can be reached at markbward ((at)) gmail ((period)) com.