Chapter 31

Chapter Annotation: The Prototype

(Images are in collapsible tabs to conserve space)

This chapter entails the encounter of Cayce and Ngemi with Greenaway to purchase the Curtas, and exchange it with the information that Baranov has on the email.

In this chapter, while Cayce is waiting for Ngemi to escort her, she is using a pedipole. A pedipole is a gym equipment that uses springs to exercise the arms, the legs and torso of the body. While on the machine, she is reminded of the Vitruvian man. A paradox occurs here because Cayce has a Phobia on logos which means she tries not to think of it as much because it might give her panic attacks. However, the Vitruvian man is a logo itself. It appears on the Euro coin which means “man as a measure of all things.” It also appears on a MAC OS, in which Cayce is currently using.

In addition (although not that much important in this chapter), Ngemi mentions "Stephen King's Wang". Sexual connotations aside, Ngemi was actually referring to the WANG, a very old word processor that was apparently one of the first that Stephen King used to write his books.

The first encounter of Cayce with Baranov in the previous chapter, Baranov points a gun at Cayce. Though it is not deadly since the ammo was not loaded, it is still a gun nonetheless, and must be assumed to be loaded at all times and never be pointed at anything that is not intended to be shot at. According to Ngemi, in Britain, owning a gun is not a common practice in Britain, thinking that owning a gun is wrong and could lead to a terrible and profligate waste of human life. This however is totally different from the mentality in the USA where the 2nd amendment in the constitution reserves the right for all its citizen to keep and bear arms.

However, the Brit’s paranoia about gun ownership is not ungrounded because of the potential threat that a gun can pose on human life. Case and point, the terrorism that Cayce is feeling about 9-11 is almost similar to the fear that people felt when their own constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms becomes the very thing that oppresses their liberty. This is in reference to the D.C. Sniper, Columbine shootout and the Georgia Tech blood bath.

Upon meeting Greenaway, the aura of his office and the whole neighborhood in which they are in reeks of elitism. Security is something that is valued in this neighborhood and thus most stores would probably have a panic button in case someone tries to rob it, flooding the area with large, helmeted men armed with truncheons. The rich value security among all things else, security for their life, their future and their wealth. The disparity of the social classes can be seen here with the condescending attitude of Greenaway to Cayce and Ngemi. But every thing aside, security is highly valued by the rich and when security measures are in place, it can target not only physical security but financial security as well.

While Ngemi and Greenaway were discussing about the origins of the Curta on sale, a clash of ideologies can be seen, similar to what was explained just earlier. In particular, when Greenaway sees Ngemi and Cayce for the first time, he judges them through their clothes. First, Greenaway takes note of Ngemi's shoes, which were "slightly dusty black DMs", or Dr. Martens.

This infers that Ngemi is not one of the upper-class, but more on the middle-class. Even if DMs can be used as a fashion statement by the upper-class, the fact that they were slightly dusty — and therefore used a lot — makes Ngemi seem more like a common worker. Cayce even tries to think what Greenaway's shoes might be like, but she imagines it to be more of "toe-cleavage loafers with tassels", and "something by a Savile Row maker".

After that, Greenaway notices Cayce's Buzz Rickson jacket. And of course, in the eyes of Greenaway, this does not look very promising for him regarding the true objectives of his current customers.

These items of clothing apparently do not meet Greenaway's standards of what he wants his customers to be, and with somewhat good reason. Having a collection of vague items like Curtas are normally just attributed to the wealthy, hence his rather obscene price. The fact that Ngemi and Cayce do not "look" wealthy makes Greenaway think that they just found the store randomly, and questions whether they are indeed serious about this purchase.

However, Ngemi has a way of "fighting back" against Greenaway. First, Ngemi defends their true motives by partially concocting a story about Cayce's father. Apparently now he is:

"…a retired American government official with a background in the sciences, has a number of Type Ones, all dating from 1949 and of course numbered below three hundred. And several Type Twos as well, chosen primarily for condition and case variety."

Of course that part about Cayce's father being a government official is not a fabrication, and Greenaway can even verify that himself if he needs to. However, he won't be able to know if Cayce's father really was a Curta collector because after all, it's just a hobby.

Ngemi also mentions about Herzstark, Herzstark's own collection of Curta prototypes, and asks Greenaway if the Curta on sale is one of them. He also inspects the condition of the Curta later on, by checking on its parts and performing an operation on it.

In this way, Ngemi establishes himself as being well-versed in the world of Curtas, even more than Greenaway himself is. Of course this is true, since Ngemi is normally involved in the business of Curtas and other rare-yet-vague items; however the important thing here is that Ngemi has now more control over the transaction, just because of the fact that he know more about the Curtas than Greenaway does, and thus he seems more knowledgeable. In effect, Greenaway seems more of left behind in the dust.

Also, when Greenaway explains the origins of the Curtas in question, he mentions the machinist and fabricator of the Curtas. A fabricator, in the most basic sense, means the actual person that builds the item. However, this word also connotes one that makes a fake version of an item. It is this negative connotation that Ngemi infers when he blurts back the word "fabricator" to Greenaway, and therefore exerting even more control over the transaction.

After all of that, the issue of payment pops up. Greenaway mentions that he cannot accept personal checks unless he was acquainted with the buyer. However, considering that the number of people who are collecting Curtas are quite small, much less people who are into Curtas AND acquainted with Greenaway, the issue here is not really on acquaintances. Rather, it is yet again another issue of class differences, with Greenaway only considering people of the upper-class as part of the "acquaintances".

Because of this, Cayce shows him the Blue Ant card, which can buy anything, even cars (of course not going beyond that, like aircraft). When Greenaway questions if the credit is adequate, Cayce tells him to even ask the issuer of the card if he has doubts. In the end, Greenaway just mentions that he will find out anyway during the authorization process, through the use of a card swiper.

This usage of a card swiper is an example of a digital divide (although a rather small and isolated case of one). The issue of the digital divide is a rather broad one, but very briefly, it means the access that certain people have to digital and information technology, and access to the actual information within them. In the case of this chapter, Greenaway has access to the card swiper, which in turn has access to the information in the card, and the information about the Blue Ant credit through the issuer.

This dependence on technology is, in the end, a big theme in the book.

This chapter ends with Baranov now receiving the Curta, and gives the complete email in return to Cayce. However, before he leaves, he mentions "Baltic Oil". However as of right now, neither Cayce, Ngemi, nor even the reader can understand the point of "Baltic Oil". Perhaps in another chapter, the mysteries of it will be solved.

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