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‘So talk me through it,’ said Giles, thumping the impressively heavy report on the table.

Simar glanced at Sharon, then got up, her silver-flecked skirt sliding smoothly across her thighs. Her Jimmy Choo Anouk nude shadow coarse glitter fabric pointy toe pumps picked up the echoes of sunlight from the garden window.

Giles snorted inwardly to himself, recognizing a fellow professional who picked up on every detail, including the all important signalling. Class, he thought, got all the tricks right. His male mind nevertheless responded sub-liminally to the pheromones being Exocet’d his way. Watch, it, she’s a maneater, he thought, she’ll eat me up and spit me out for breakfast if I don’t watch it.

Simar was looking at him, clocking his reactions. ‘Shall I start?’ she said.

Giles blinked. ‘Shoot,’ he said, assuming his hard-boiled political adviser to the prime minister exterior shell.

‘I do,’ said Simar. ‘I never miss.’

I bet you do, thought Giles, and I bet you don’t. Wouldn’t like to be on the other end, either. This one has never heard the word “mercy”. Or “I give up”. She’s in it for the kill.

‘Thank you for giving OCL Demographics  the opportunity to bring to the government’s attention some demographic trends which will critically impact, not to put too fine a polish on it, the future of absolutely everyone in this country,’ Simar said, swaying slightly on her Jimmy Choo’s as she bent to pick up the remote from the lectern. Her dress made that special sound of silk gliding over expensive tights.

I’d better take back some control here, thought Giles, his eyes sliding off the tautness of fabric as Simar stretched. What did I say? Class.

‘Sorry to interrupt at this early stage,’ he asked innocently, ‘but you wouldn’t be already slightly over-egging the cake with that introductory statement, would you?’

‘I’d suggest you let me get on with the presentation first,’ said Simar, ‘then judge afterwards. Let the figures talk for themselves.’

‘Touche,’ thought Giles. ‘Two minutes in and she’s in complete control. What an operator!’

‘However you want to run it, Ms Antal,’ he said smoothly. ‘The floor is all yours.’



Juliette clicked on the email. It had a beautiful picture of a palm-fronded beach. Underneath it said: “Things don’t always – in fact they almost never turn out as we expect. But we have the power to turn things round. Do you accept this statement? If so, click ‘Accept’, and a new life can be yours.”

‘Spam,’ she said out loud. ‘Bloody Southern Californian New Age Babble. Fucking chuggers. What do they take me for, a fool? “Madeira”? Huh. Well this girl ain’t for the Madeira-ing.’

She slept the laptop, fixed her face-the-public face from a jar on the bathroom shelf and went shopping.





‘Morning Saving Remnant,’ said AMI. ‘How are we all this morning? Fine morning, isn’t it?’

‘Listen up, you fucking load of scrambled-egg circuits,’ Simar snarled. ‘We’re not here to exchange polite chitchat about the weather. Did we, or did we not?’

‘Question does not compute semantically,’ said AMI. ‘Object missing. Reformulate.’

‘Fuckshit you dipshit!’ said Simar.

‘Fuckshit you dipshit?’ said AMI. ‘Rephrase. Statement does not compute semantically. Meaning of “fuck” and meaning of “shit” non-congruent.’

‘Shows how little you know of humans then,’ said Simar. ‘AMI, you know exactly what I mean, so stop winding us up with your cute computerese head-games. Did we or did we not kill anyone in that scenario you hijacked us into?’




Giles closed his mouth with an audible snap. The PM, after all these years, still had the ability to totally discombobulate him, seemingly at random. He never knew what he was actually thinking, or why, or what he’d do… or say next.  

‘Lost for words, Giles?’ said the PM. ‘Now that IS unusual. Come on,’ he said,  ‘Out with it. Let’s see which way the wind’s blowing. And if you deserve your overblown salary.’

‘Er, yes, PM,’ Giles said. He collected himself. ‘In a nutshell, whatever may or may not happen in Japan, about which I know nothing, this is the situation: we spend an awful lot of money keeping people alive who would’ve been dead in previous years, could’ve been dead in previous years, maybe even should’ve been dead in previous years. And, whatever we want to think of that from whatever moral, ethical, religious or philosophical standpoint, we actually don’t have enough money or resources - or people - going forward to continue to do that.’

‘On the nail,’ said the PM.