The Chromatic Dollar

If you’ve been in the open population for any length of time, you’ve probably seen or heard about the Chromatic Dollar—usually called “CDs” or “Hands”. This is the currency of the world today—not the only one, of course, but definitely the most important one. Almost everywhere you’ll ever go, hands are the preferred legal tender: you’re going to get paid in them, and odds are you are going to steal quite a few. So, for those of you who don’t already know, time to get yourselves learnt!

The CD is an asset-backed currency—which means that in theory, each bill represents a fixed quantity of ink. However, it’s not quite so simple as that (get used to that phrase, newcomers). Rather than being directly traded at a depository for ink, most CDs contains ink in themselves: each dollar is woven out of fabric, and tinted by being immersed a watered-down mixture of colored ink. When submerged in cold water, this ink can be drawn out of the bill, leaving it blank. As you may recall, inkish life needs a regular infusion of ink to survive. What this means is that chromatic dollars are, in fact, literal meal tickets: normal civilians can immerse them in cold water to bleed the ink out of them, creating a mixture that is substantial enough to maintain an inkish life form, but is not strong enough to be classified as a hazardous material.

Of course, even that is not quite so simple. Of the 7 CD denominations of CD—White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Red, and Black—only 5 actually contain ink within them. The white and black CDs do not actually contain any ink at all, due to respectively being worth very little and being worth a really great big bunch. White bills are the “single unit” denomination—they represent precisely one “CD”. They are not actually dyed, and are simply desaturated colored bills. Their value comes from the fact that they can be traded in bulk to the Morbux cartel reclamation facilities in exchange for bills of greater worth. They are worth very little, but are still used as a baseline currency for small transactions—commonly in retail or service industries.

Yellow bills are the smallest denomination which actually contain ink. They each contain approximately 1/1000 of a milliliter of ink, and are worth 500 CDs. Other denominations are Green (1000 CDs, or 1/200 of a milliliter); blue (5000 CDs, 1/100); purple (10000 CDs, or .2 milliliters); and red (50000 CDs, or .5 milliliters). Black bills, like white bills, do not contain any ink in themselves; but unlike white bills, are worth such a ridiculously high amount that it is actually impossible to store that much ink in a single bill. Specifically, a black bill is worth an entire liter of ink, or 200,000 green bills—a whopping50 million CDs. Black bills are basically never put into circulation—they were only invented so that governments and mega-corporations would have an easier time arranging bulk ink transfers between each other. Instead of physically procuring and delivering ink en masse, they could simply transfer bills (or credit for a bill, more accurately) and redeem them with their bank of choice.

History of the Chromatic Dollar

The Chromatic dollar was introduced into circulation by Black Sea Banking in 2090, 2 months after the Frontier Development Bill permitted the production and exchange of company-owned currencies. While frontier companies were the primary beneficiaries of this provision (since it allowed them to reestablish the “company store” of bygone eras) BSB was the first major company to introduce private bills for widespread circulation. A limited run of black, red, and (now-defunct) orange bills were distributed to several of BSB’s partners in lieu of liquid ink; and then, after this initial success, BSB allowed its inkish employees to receive a portion of their salary in CDs instead of their normal currencies. The option proved enormously popular, since it allowed inkish persons to sustain themselves without making trips to dedicated ink depositories. Demand steadily grew, until an inordinately successful write-in campaign garnered 16.5 million signatures imploring BSB to introduce the CD into public circulation. After drafting the exchange rates, BSB began printing chromatic dollars for public use in 2092—and it was all uphill from there.

Now, just over 200 years later, the CD is the most common currency in local space. It’s traded on all civilized worlds, and a number of the uncivil ones as well. Wherever electronic infrastructure exists, the CD will soon follow—even to places as remote as Pluto. The only place it has not found purchase is on the frontier, where efforts at civilization are often bowled over by six-pack wars, or other even more unpleasant things…