Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Pale Horse - Chapter 5

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life….
John F Kennedy. Inaugural Address: January 1961.
Do the last first: then the first don’t matter?

2022 – Christmas 2024


Maureen Connelly handed the dying bundle back to its mother. Above the musak of the shuffling queue with its staccatos of suppressed coughs, grudged for the energy they used and the buzz of flies they attracted, she caught the sound a second time. Mouthing excuses, she left the shade of the clinic and screwing her eyes against the glaring sun screwed her heart against disappointment.

She'd been in Abaya for five years and was hardened to the compromise of realities. It affected everything, nibbled away the flesh of conscience until it gnawed at her soul. Her proselytising Dublin zeal had disappeared faster than the plonk at her combined graduation and leaving party. Though, like the morning after, its putrescent aftertaste still clawed at her throat. It wasn't that the job was impossible; it was made impossible. By the time the problems reached here they’d already entered the realm of statistics. She'd prayed to the demi-gods of logistics, screamed defiance, wept, pleaded, argued and rationalised. Broadcast dire messages over radio and sat-link to anybody who would listen, then waited for the answers she didn’t want to hear. “ It would be two weeks if she was lucky, three was more likely; provided they got clearance from whatever shit-for-brains faction was in control. On top of that they'd trouble getting shipment, clearance, transport, they'd all sorts of problems to chew their cud on.” Loads of good intentions, convoys of excuses, but no fucking food.

Back in the winter of 2022 she'd been touched by optimism on her last, her only leave home; had absorbed the enthusiasm of ex and continuing college mates. Their sense of purpose, ideology, the edicts of horizons promising futures were, for a time, tantalisingly reassuring.

Mike, her old boyfriend, never lover, along with Peter Cruggin, were in England being trained in the commissioning of fast breeder reactors. All right, a far cry from the heady philosophy of the quad, but philosophy has a hollow ring when your science honours got you a part time bar job. Even Seamus Gorman, who'd been her, and many others' lover while ghosting through four years assassinating the characters of Ireland's ancient Kings, even he had changed by more than his conventional haircut. He was off to Stanford for a year then, provided he made the grade - Holy Mother, she couldn't believe she was hearing this - he, along with specialist teams from most of the world's leading universities, would be joining her in the dark continent to record and collate its ancient myths, legends and religions. Leastwise he was pretty sure it would be Africa. Though there were rumours of doing the same with India, which he thought ridiculous, bordering on insult. India's past had been well preserved and presented, spiritually, mythical and historically by the cultured Indians. Anyway, if it were Africa, he'd make a point of dropping in on her and desecrating her mission.

Maureen had snapped back, 'I'm surprised how much you care, but you might find Africa to be steeped in the same richness of wisdom as you afford India.’ As to the desecration threat, Abaya had neither sanctity nor much sanity and fucking only used up energy. She'd allowed his hand to droop from shoulder to breast and left it there as his finger and thumb rolled its nipple erect.
'Must mean you're looking forward to a refresher course.'
The smile she had once thought of as winning looked about as inviting as a sweaty armpit. 'Fuck off, Seamus. Your dong isn't in my league anymore. I like them black, thick and as long as a baby's arm.' She returned his quizzical look with one of uncaring frankness until his hand dropped out of play. A couple of times she'd seen him glance her way, probably wondering if he'd only been brushed off or truly fucked out, and how to spin it. Maureen discovered she didn't care and, once she left the party found she didn't much care for Mike, Peter, Eric, Diane or any of the others her world had once revolved around.

The rest of her leave had been spent driving round Ireland watching the Atlantic crash against its west coast. She caught snippets of news and tuned in to the relevant current affairs programmes giving updates and reviews on the big five's commitment to launch Africa into the twenty-first century. She'd listened and watched, praying it would mean the end of places like Abaya. Listening to presidents, chancellors and prime ministers saying all the words she'd prayed for. She looked at their faces on the box and absorbed their look of concern and resolution. Towards the end of her leave and back in Dublin, she was asked by a reporter acquaintance how she felt about the news. She paid lip service to all the initiatives that had been promised; for the moment it was all they were due. Two years later they were still waiting.

By December 2024, pragmatism for her was rationing beings from becoming corpses. It was her faith, her hope beyond religion or belief. She'd tried cutting out the old and turning her eyes from the no-hopers: impossible categories to classify. Constant were her prayers to the god of loaves and fishes once she discarded defining who qualified and concentrated on minimum quantity irrespective of hope, age or gender. It hadn't been a unilateral decision. She'd discussed it with her co-workers, though could they make anything other than a unilateral decision when it affected tens of thousands? They'd discussed it without argument and said it was up to her. She'd put it to the camp council who'd listened sombrely and said it was up to God. God and her; her and God. She could only hope He accepted the executive position. In the past days she'd grimly averted her eyes from their dwindling store.

Maureen felt hope turn to rage when the fighter flashed low over them and was surprised by tears she thought she'd lost when it returned from the head of the valley escorting, like a sparrow protecting an eagle, the huge transport plane. Already Gary and Tony were organising the trucks and had the first grinding towards the gates. Two of the council stood on each tailgate helping the fittest to scramble aboard. A plane that size couldn't land on the strip. She prayed they’d have the sense not to drop the load on the compound where it would disappear faster than a raindrop in the dessert. She closed her eyes hoping it wouldn't prove to be some stupid sodding military exercise like some shit-head had pulled in the past. Her tears stung in frustration when the bags dropped like incontinent pigeon shit from one end of the compound to the other. She hugged some hope back when she saw the bags continue to fall outside the compound. Then the fighter started to climb drawing the transport with it as though tied by an umbilical.

There was nothing she could do. Just as there was nothing Jesus could have done if some of the five thousand had snaffled more than their neighbours. Maybe that's why he got five thousand - good party, free food and drink. Like him she'd just have to wait and see what pickings were left and hope they'd gain enough stamina to repair the huts devastated by the drop. She gave a banal giggle at the sight of a man's limbs spread-eagled under a relief sack. Man Killed By Miracle - a headline to give them something to think about back home. Heading to check the body for life she gathered her wits and authority to demand her flock gather up the grain and take it. 'All of it, damn you, to the store. To the fucking store.' Her colleagues and some of the council were shouting similar threats, though they were really only pleas in a maelstrom of survival.

Knowing it was hopeless, Maureen did a mental audit of the amount of bales she'd seen fall. She would stop any distribution for all except invalids then, any who had would be shopped by those who’d run out. At the edge of a milling circle of backs and hollow rumps she pushed aside a flock of scooping hands to gather a handful. Confused for a moment she spread the manna over her palm, before sniffing it cautiously then cupping her hand to her mouth for taste to confirm. Oh my God, wheat! The finest bloody wheat meal. Oh, the stupid sods. Oh what we could have done with this. God if only?

If only three hours later, Maureen Connelly, her disciples and the multitude hadn't been dead.

The fighter came back that night. Hugging the terrain, activating cameras and sensors it flew over the dried lakebed. It did a second pass to confirm there was no need for a third before heading back to its carrier sailing towards the Suez Canal. They'd had special orders on the morning's flight. Should the transport start to act crazily they were to blast it out of the sky and make sure there were no survivors. The action hadn't been necessary, none of the transport's crew knew the blessing the inoculation had bestowed on them.

Alexei’s Christmas message to Jim Mair was to confirm play had started. They decided to let it be confirmed by the normal course of events and through the media.

Andrei Cuirakan was with his president when the call came through seven days later. The Ethiopian government and relief agency inspectors had diagnosed an extremely virulent poison that seemed to have contaminated all the food they found, except for a small amount of grain in one store. They couldn't understand how the wheat meal had come to be there because the camp was reputedly very low on food. They were taking back samples for analysis. Other than that and in view of the scale of the tragedy, there was nothing to do but abandon the camp. There were no samples, nobody made it back.

That evening the commander of the second Russian battle fleet cruising towards the Red Sea to join its American counterparts for manoeuvres in the Med, decoded Moscow's orders. The two carriers St Petersburg and Arkangelsk hove to in the Gulf of Aden. By dawn the last of their fighters were circling to drop back into their steel coffins. The sky was a benign blue, free of cloud as the last one folded its wings and the carriers' turbines whined acceleration to ten knots over fleet speed. Over Abaya the cloud was a putrid black.

Two years later this was the refuge Ibram with his mother and brothers searched for only to find that once again chance mocked them in their role as the collateral survivors.

The Players

On Boxing Day Andrei Cuirakan died shortly after rising.

He'd meant for it to happen the evening before, but was so cold after his visit to Bella’s grave he’d doubted his hands ability to hold the pistol or its fingers to form around and squeeze the trigger. He gave a slow smile when he saw the pistol lying beside the glass and plates he’d set out for breakfast. At 86 he mused habits die hard, realising he was about to break that trait. He smiled again when he cupped his hands round the steaming glass of tea and let the warmth help straighten them. His index finger was useless other than to form a vice between it and his thumb. His second finger crooked but whether it had the strength – well his left hand would see to that; and any discomfort would be fleeting. It was time for him to go, the game was on and whether he would have been left with a choice or not, he’d no desire to witness its final result.
It was a decision he’d made shortly after Varbagin had approached him with the concept. He couldn’t argue against the rational, it was patently obvious the bickering of governments and the greed of the global conglomerates were making impossible the achievement of any sensible global target. Yet to live with, the results of G.A.M.E. was unconscionable. Andrei gave a slow grin; perhaps this was his final rebellion. After all these scheming duplicitous years to find he still had a functioning conscience.

Klaus Schultz was being massaged with natural oils in Barbados. As Henry's fingers kneaded and rolled along his thighs he felt his member thicken. 'You want I do your third leg?'

'Please, but no oil. I believe it can leave a bad taste.' He let sleep follow the relief that washed over him. After tomorrow he'd two days in New York then a straggly new year with the stuffed shirts in Brussels. The universal mood of optimism had given a sense of control and power back to the bureaucrats. Initially they'd stonewalled against involvement, now they scrambled to grab authority. Mind you, they hadn't become crazed enough yet to accept responsibility - a trait Schultz reckoned they'd learnt at their mothers' pap. Still, it had left him with enough scope to play the field.

Mair had played a shrewd game and was still winning. He'd used the euphoria following the announcement of the WREC and the G.A.M.E. project in Africa to convince the republicans they were a crippled ass chasing a thoroughbred and set the mood for the rest of the world by offering them a coalition when their ratings were threatening to par with flat earthers. It was a fashion, tempting for others to adopt, away from the failed cycles of the old.

He'd added to it when he addressed the world's leaders at the U.N. in October 2022, flanked by his associates from the Reykjavik summit and Premier Chan of China. Amongst the bureaucrats in the gallery Klaus ignored the words; whatever was said was a done deed; though he’d been surprised by Germany’s presence on the podium and not India. Instead he’d searched for clues from the expressions and body language of the delegates. He’d drawn a blank on the dais; there expressions were set in stone. But Mair wasn’t playing to his live audience; they the primes, presidents and princelings were merely the croupiers, here to learn the new rules of an old game. Mair’s media audience was their punters; he was upping the pot and lessening their odds.

He remembered Mair rising to make his way to the microphone and the hush that fell on the chamber. With all eyes on him and after a moment's hesitation, taking his jacket off and slinging it over his chair, then loosening his tie and collar as he made his way to the rostrum. Then, with a wry smile and muffled apology, going back to his jacket for his notes. The polite titter round the chamber quickly subdued by the frightening thought that this guy was here to work. He'd started off nervously, having to pause and clear his throat before finding his normal conversational tone.

‘It seems we are to be congratulated. After all Nero fiddled while only Rome burned; we on the other hand have orchestrated the same effect on the world. As of today I’m told our greenhouse is 1.8 degrees C warmer, our atmosphere has 470 parts per million of carbon dioxide and our meteorological systems having fits.
I’ve asked our scientists; “What is a safe level of carbon dioxide for us as a species to breath?” I’m told we don’t know. I argue, “Perhaps our bio makeup can adapt. After all we must be the most adaptable species on the planet?” I get shrugs and don’t knows. I say, “Give me hard nosed predictions. You’re the best, the wise gurus of science; you must know?” I get silence until I hear the mumble of a woman’s voice. I ask her to speak up. She say’s, “We can model any gods amount of predictions from any permutation of elements and factor in any inherent instability.” “Then what is the problem madam?” I ask. “Governments.” She answers, “They have form, but no integrity. You try predicting the outcome of a lottery when you don’t know the rules or even if there are any and the prize if there is one really exists.”
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to that lady and it’s why you’re all here today.

You are all aware of the proposal we placed before the American people and their subsequent decision allowing us their mandate to implement the Government of Union. We offered a government free of party ideology and internecine strife. The executive, senate and congress working together for issues and progress, not the pyrrhic victories of dogma and vanity. Straight government, that puts the people first, acknowledges their rights, their worth and our responsibilities to deliver them.

We all know where the faults lie. We may try to mitigate these failures, but to modify John F Kennedy’s famous quote; “Ask not why the people have failed but why we have failed our people.” Because damnit we have failed, otherwise we wouldn’t have the situation we’re in today where the fastest growth in this world is poverty and its bedmate misery.

… A few Swiss account holders murmured dissent, most merely shuffled.

Mair, impervious to it all, had carried on with his fireside chat. How this world could only function as one nation, one rule, and one supreme government. To achieve this, non-democratic governments would be dissolved under international caretaker units and supervised democratic elections take place within two years. Within a year of the democratic world being in place the supreme world council would be formed. Initially the supreme council and national governments would stand for a term of ten years to establish its edicts and achieve stability, thereafter in four-year cycles. There was to be one monetary unit. Constitutions, values and laws would be globalised.

It was utopian, implausible, but difficult to oppose against the cartel proposing it.

The professional pragmatists had politely applauded while weighing the pain against potential profits, the latter mainly for their pockets. The Brits and French, peeved because they were not on the dais, tried to look and sound as though they'd written his speech and any fine-tuning would be done in private. India fumed at the snub.

Jim Mair went to bed that night and said his prayers. He started by asking for all the small fry nuclear members to be given the wisdom to react positively to the coded message sent to each of them while his speech was on the air. Why it wouldn’t be wise to consider retaliation when every one of their sites was covered by all of the big three and reaction would be immediate and simultaneous. Some might consider it was bluff on the part of U.S., but it was an empire in decline; so perhaps not. Russia hadn’t been too bothered with its past mistakes and China? Well who the hell knew how to read Chan? And ‘democracy’ had many facets?

He’d finished by emphasising his plea to be forgiven his transgressions.

The bankers, brokers and CEOs of global conglomerates loved it because it promised confusion and new horizons for the Monopoly figures they played with. Some premiers, presidents and postulating airheads hated it with all their smiling teeth, palpitating hearts and twitching fingers scrambling in deep hung pockets. Parties in opposition liked it because shadowing was frighteningly insubstantial.

Honest, disillusioned, desperate politicians liked it because it offered what they did best; it promised promise. The minute to midnight cynics because the end wouldn't have been fun anyway. The disenchanted, disenfranchised, nervy, brutalised masses heard it as an admission of failure but allowed it some tenuous belief, while wondering how the bastards were going to screw them next.

No matter how tenuous their belief, Americans would have voted Mair his ten-year term if he'd been a gay black Rastafarian with HIV and paedophile tendencies. The fact he was none of these simply made it better. They liked this guy who told them straight and looked and acted as though he didn't care if they cheered or jeered; who kept his home life private and answered some questions at press briefings by saying, ‘he didn't know’, or "Good question that. Give me a couple of days to check it out". They liked seeing the look of consideration cross his face when a suggestion presented him with a tangent he hadn't thought of. This was a bloke who showed his cracks and crumbly bits, but had the guts to acknowledge them.

After a flock of passĂ© presidents they'd found a leader and one who wasn’t afraid to shoot from the hip. His popularity ratings rose to the level where they ceased to matter. His personal security was increased three fold.

It was believed upwards of six billion people watched or heard his speech as it bounced round the globe; most, probably more than once. Three had watched it in silence in a Cheshire farmhouse. Bob had invited Dick and Mary over to dinner and having done the shop left Mary to cook while he faff’d around laying places opening wines and polishing glasses while they waited for Dick to arrive. The speech and dinner part of Bob’s campaign to nudge the two of them back together. Because of Dick’s lateness and the roast taking longer than he’d allowed, they’d left the meal till after Mair’s speech. Bob cut the sound when the studio linkman announced they were going over to get the reactions of the prime minister, suggesting they leave the discussion till they were at the table,
Bob started. ‘Some speech. What do you think?'
Mary's eyes glistened. Listening to Mair she’d felt her anxiety ease to the tingle of hope. 'Marvellous, bloody marvellous. I just hope the rest see sense and don't try to block every move he makes.'
Bob nodded. 'Judging by the others at the table, he's already got the economic and military big guns. Can't see any of the others defying them, can you Dick?'
'We’ll know pretty quickly if any do. If they were all to stand together, we could end up with stand off.’ Then, seeing the disappointment on Mary's face, 'But I agree, it won't happen. Germany will sell it to the Union and the rest are in hock to either America or China apart from the Arabs. Trouble there is some already see him as a messiah and it’ll frighten the ones who see him as a maniac. Either way they won't want him to live.'
Mary asked. ’Why?’
‘Because the only safe icon’s a dead one.’
Mary shook her head. 'You're one dyed in wool cynic Dick Carter.'
'Bloody hell, coming from you Mary that's rich. Look it's just the way I see it. Too big a change for too many that could cost them too much.'
Bob was with Mary, 'C'mon Dick, give the bloke a chance. At least in the past few years he's brought the mire we’re in out in the open and isn't trying to fob us off with all the usual guff of every garden being buggered but ours. After all, isn’t this just a development of this WREC thing your involved with, and isn’t that beginning to show signs of success?'
Dick held his hands up in mock surrender. 'Okay, you win. It's a chink of sense, a flash of sanity. I’ll turn off my cynic switch and turn on the optimism. Hail the new order of excellence over elitism.'
Mary shook her head. 'Pay no attention to him Bob, he wants an argument and isn't going to get one. You're out voted Dick Carter, two to one.'
Dick laughed. 'Damn, and here was me thinking the odds were a bloody sight bigger than that. But consider this. Here’s three of us, all close, definitely friends, all in agreement with the principle but not whether it’s achievable. I’m not sure we humans are capable of that large a consensus.'
‘Your acting dumb Dick. They’ll bypass the governments and put it straight to the people. Most will vote for it, if for no other reason but to give their governors the finger.’
Bob laughed. ‘The fuck you Jack, you were shite syndrome. Yes I like that Mary.’
Dick gave a shrug. ‘You may be right, but they won’t want to get rid of the present lot that would create chaos. They’ll only want to control them.’
It was Bob's turn to shake his head as Dick and Mary went to clear the dishes; he’d noted Dick’s use of the word ‘friends’. Would they ever apply the same sense and get back together? Mary rattling about in that bloody great condo, bored by shopping trips and the girly lunches. Dick with his surrogate family, his old suite and full board, when he wasn't chasing over the world on the WREC thing. It was all very civilised to the point of being ridiculous. No one had mentioned affairs or indiscretions; it seemed even sex was on a sabbatical. Except for one occasion that had shaken Dick - or he’d said it had.

Adam Morris's, (a.k.a. Flint), youngest daughter Ruth, nineteen, pretty and a favourite of Dick's, had mistaken his affection and crawled into his bed. Bob had never seen her but got the impression different circumstances and “favourite” wouldn’t have been the word Dick used. Anyway, according to Dick, once he came to his senses he’d eased her out as considerately as he could. Other than making a few phone calls he’d let it be for a couple of days before raising Ruth’s situation with Adam and asking how he’d feel about her moving to London to a decent job and flat in a safe district. Any doubts Adam had had been chipped away by Ruth playing on her dearth of opportunities, of relationships with peers, her wish to get back to study, university then a degree. It worked, Adam couldn’t deny her the opportunity, and Dick said he felt a situation that could have turned nasty had eased back to normal.

By Ruth’s first trip home, Mary would visit for the occasional meal, but Bob still wasn't welcome.

Mumbai 2022.

Mulk knew nothing about the speech. America, a word he might have recognised from letters emblazoned on planes. Mair could have been the president of India and he wouldn't know what to do if a vote was offered him, not without asking Malik.

The gods had given him a fourth gift, Ronila’s and his first born, though there had been two who hadn’t made it. They’d named him Raj. Gita he’d found when he was scavenging, trailing a stalking dog on the rubbish tip.

Salford 2024

Deek didn't care. His father hadn't cared until Africa had been chosen and he'd applied and been age rejected. Then his interest peaked at, 'Bloody typical, set the wogs up first.'
Deek eyed the “shopping” stacked on the table in front of him and mentally calculated its worth. Every item was based on convenience. The packs of batteries for toys, where they weren’t included. The replacement brushes for electric toothbrushes; the nylons, knickers and toiletries. His look of dismay was genuine when he totalled it to around three hundred and fifty and the acne spassed filth totalled the items on his list.
‘Christ Son, where did you put it all?' Asked the cop not unkindly, at the same time as he shook his head and looked at Mrs Awkright in disbelief. But Deek knew he’d to stay stum and try to squeeze out a couple of tears, while his mother’s quivering voice protested, ‘ She didn’t know what got in to him.’

Yesterday had been food and booze day. Mr and Mrs stacked their trolleys high, booze in one, food in the other; paying for both at the checkout. Oldman Awkright taking extra care of the receipt. Back in the mall they took their shopping with them into the cafĂ©. Ten minutes later it was Rosie and Deek’s job to wheel the trolleys to a taxi, load up and head home. Meanwhile Mr and Mrs headed back to the supermarket and duplicating the receipt item for item added the Christmas cake, paid for the cake, claiming it had been forgotten on their first pass and offering the receipt as proof before making their way home. Deek didn’t mind, he reckoned it was about the only risk his Oldman took.

He reckoned his mother was cool but he wouldn’t know till later if she’d been sharp enough to see the mobiles he’d slipped into her bag.


W.R.E.C. Update

Klaus's earlier fears about delays and procrastination in converting satellites to weather and pest data were unfounded. The military had a role to play and an act they could stage over any nation’s arena and the additions for World Resource didn't restrict them from adding refinements of their own. Shafner and Morice were undoubtedly the nucleus of the entomology team in both vision and method. And the Canadians recommendation of Carter as the chair had presented him with a clear thinking administrator whose integrity was appreciated by all of the committee.

Shafner's bean tins were polluting the globe and pollinating their data banks globally with information on a minute-to-minute basis. Only the logistics of supply and the fitting of the programmable ejector units to military and civil aircraft had caused an initial hiccup. Both Shafner and Morice had complained that the prototypes were being overly complicated. The Lubbock labs argued that they wanted them big enough to adapt for future developments and the back-up power packs were bigger than they’d anticipated. Shafner and Morice wondered why Nano-Solar units should need back up shrugged and let them get on with it after Klaus advised them not to economise on the hay they were getting for their gift horses. World wide, the scavenging economies were sprouting by the reward for returning cans that had missed their targeted location to local collection depots. The amount didn’t matter, for every one returned ten replaced it.

Mostly they'd proved invaluable. Allowing WREC to predict within minutes the start and duration of a shower, wind strength and direction. Bug swarms were pinpointed, identified and quantified. Eradication was precise – smart spray – they’d called them, pesticides drastically reduced and statistical enhanced quantities of food served to the masses.

Africa was being dozed, laid, mined and constructed. The mills of the northern hemisphere clattered again to the gods of commerce. Their fiery altars belching their sacrifice of earthly ores to the skies, their emissions balanced against a bottom line future. Ships coughed their mothballed engines clear, their rusting hulls chipped and painted, holds filled and their seamen fertilised into action. Airlines reclaimed their birds from the desert, blew them clean and filled their bellies with the men of know- how from the north. America opened her ghettos, laying on convoys for the indolent inmates to become workers and earners in the new promise of finding their roots. Get yourself settled then we'll bring out your families, they were told, promised or cajoled. And for many it was better than jail. The blue berets contra- flowed from homeland to somebody else's. The thin blue line of neutral arbiters maintaining order irrespective of colour or creed. The security consultants and their mercenary spawn were banking billions.

The natives watched, worked and wondered when this promise would be theirs. Tutsi, Tuarag, Zulu, Somali, Xhosa, Bantu and Shona; and all their bastardised permutations served the drinks, dug the holes, made the beds and served in them. Eyeing enviously the palace homes, waiting for the temporary occupant to leave and the township to be theirs. 2028 was the target, but the word was they were ahead of schedule. It didn't matter. What was a blink in time to the patient African?

The world was jousting for a name for its new currency; “Mair's” was favourite. Medical teams gathered the whores of Africa. To the poxed went the diseased clients; the pure of body were quarantined for six weeks then certificated as marketable.

Nothing was perfect. There were still the cock-ups, the pimps, and the pushers. Still the fraudsters, the hustlers, the doubters, the yobs, the slobs and political shysters. In positions of power they either camouflaged themselves into the acceptable mould or were weeded out.

The world was working to save itself. Every paper blazoned it, every newscaster droned it. Individually it was harder to see, but they were getting there or going somewhere, everybody said so. And if you believed soap got better, whiter and brighter year in and year out, why the hell argue with it? Christmas 2024 people were beginning to believe there could be peace and an earth to celebrate it on.


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