[This is Part II of the short story which began here: http://thebustard.blogspot.com/2011/09/ejecting-greg-gloom.html. There we saw the flamboyant Lord Pi begin a secret meeting with Seth Ghast of the De-urbs and Waldemar Kunt (hereinafter to be called Waldemar Lunt for reasons of propriety), and the violent ejection of astrologer Greg Gloom. We do not yet know what was discussed at that meeting. For your information, that will be revealed in Part III.]
A few hours later on a luxurious golf course in Shanghai, a man of immense wealth perused his ball. It was nestled between a clump of thistles and a bed of nettles. For a moment he noticed the pretty purple of the thistle flowers. But once again ambition prevailed over ecology and he thrashed away at the thistles with his iron until there was space for him to address the ball without being scratched and stung. His plump legs shimmered below a pair of smart, checked shorts. For it was a sizzling November and Shanghai simmered with humidity. The man of immense wealth was Mai Wei, the world’s first and only trillionaire.
It had taken him just over thirty years: his rise was logarithmic. Ten billion after ten years; a hundred billion after twenty years and a trillion after thirty. It was used by economists the world over as the definitive proof of the final victory of capitalism. Look! Mai Wei started off selling his dad’s water melons in the village market. His sales patter carried him from the market to an estate agency dealing with farms and from there to the regional Mai Wei agricultural property fund. Apart from a wonderful year in the West Midlands of England learning English, he’d worked non-stop from the age of 14 to the present day. His group was listed on the Shanghai stock exchange and then he sold the lot just before the 2015 depression. He bought it back again and reran the same game on a global scale. He was the biggest single owner of farmland on the planet.
Yet his astrologer was better at golf. Chop Chop waited patiently for Mai Wei to finish off the hole. “May I suggest, Sir, that we retire to the nineteenth hole. It will soon be dark and our lighting rations are running low. With due respect, Sir, you have taken rather a long time on this round. Is something troubling you?”
They sat in the English bar on the nineteenth hole. It was Mai Wei’s favourite haunt. Although he was one of the very few who could still afford the luxury of chilled beer, out of respect to Chop Chop’s more limited means he would join him with a warm ale, reminding him of his student days in England. They could spend hours speculating about the whys and wherefores of life and the arbitrariness of good fortune. Mai Wei could gaze at the strange paintings of jockeys on horses and the English countryside, remembering those distant days of mist and mischief, while Chop Chop would prattle away beside him about the arrangement of the planets and the crows he’d seen that morning during his walk in the park.
Suddenly Mai Wei was awoken from his reveries. The chief ventilator had snapped his fingers and three beautiful maidens scurried to their table and stood waving palm fronds. Since air conditioning had been outlawed in the latest five year plan for survival, the profession of ventilator had gained much popularity in China. The choicier female workers, unemployed since the Great Closures, would be snapped up for ventilator work, and thus spared being sent back to their villages. The Great Closures! Those massive factories from which had once flowed nauseous torrents of electrical goods for western “consumers” now stood empty, unused. Just rusty caverns in which the wind made strange sounds and bats flocked in huge, undisturbed colonies.
“Sir,” repeated Chop Chop. “Is something troubling you?”
Mai Wei smiled at his trusted advisor. “Yes… and no.”
“And can I help you, Sir?”
Mai Wei shook his head. “Perhaps, my friend. Perhaps.” He poured his beer and looked up at the closest ventilator girl. A peach in perfect ripeness. She smiled back at him. Perhaps she was counting the interest he would earn while they lay together that night? Perhaps she was thinking of her boyfriend in a distant village, picking peas or scything the grass even this late in the evening. “Sir,” said Chop Chop.
Mai Wei signalled to the chief ventilator and the girls were bustled away. The trillionaire leant towards Chop Chop and whispered. “I had a call from England today. From a very old friend. Someone I haven’t spoken to for some time. It was a very unusual offer. I would be interested to know what you think.”
They spoke for some hours more, and the chief ventilator hovered discreetly in the manner of an agitated sycophant while his girls giggled and drank tea and smoked on the terrace at the back.
That morning in London, prime minister Onan Hash had a terrible headache. He tripped over his son Ocran’s toy combine-harvester and he swore at Rebecca his long-suffering wife and then swore again at the dog. He sat down to his breakfast and buried himself in the newspapers.
Rebecca brought him a thimble of coffee. He grunted thanks. “The blasted New Times supporting Wiedekoenig and the Fuel Party again. Ever since those Stormfeld brothers bought it out of liquidation , it’s gone so blasted pro-German and pro-Fuel. Travel is not a human right, damn it. These days even survival isn’t a human right. Ocran!” Ocran’s De-Urbs Action Man had just stabbed the prime minister in the ankle with a pitch fork. How children idolised the De-Urbs these days. Their innocence!
“Will you be back for supper tonight, darling?” asked Rebecca, taking away his empty cup. “I’ve still got a meat voucher from last month; I thought I’d roast a chicken.”
But Hash’s phone was buzzing. He looked at it. It was blasted Sir Godfrey Wolfram-Harbinger, his interior minister. On the screen he could see the domed head of a stout man in his sixties. A veteran politician, Sir Godfrey had been the deal-maker all those the years that the Purpose Party had steadily built its power by shrewd alliance, wise compromise and tactical affiliation. Despite his softness for Dame Daphne , he was a ruthless interior minister. As much as he wooed this friends, he ruled his foes with an iron grip, much like that in which Dame Daphne had been holding him – aided by the manacles which they kept under his bed – , when something so momentous had occurred to him that he was obliged, in the middle of things, to call the PM.
“What is it Sir Godfrey,” snapped Hash. “I’ve got a terrible headache. I don’t want any shocks. If it’s a shock, we can deal with it later.”
“PM. We really must meet immediately. Something of great importance has occurred to me. Something rather vile. But a political necessity. A line of argument that we have not dared entertain before. But now I realise that it is necessary. No, I can’t discuss it on the phone, not even on line 47.” He was referring to the ultra secure line 47 channel, used only when national security is threatened.
Hash sighed. Sir Godfrey’s creativity fizzed when he was in the metallic embrace of Dame Daphne. It was how he was. But these great ideas were invariably far fetched, bizarre and wholly impractical.
“Sir Godfrey. Does it require an immediate decision?”
There was a gasp on the other end of the line. Probably something to do with the Dame. “Sir Godfrey?” repeated the prime minister. “Sir Godfrey?”
“An immediate decision?” There was a pause in which Hash was sure he heard a tearing sound. “In all honesty, Sir, I think not,” hurried Sir Godfrey. He was being pulled back into the bed by Dame Daphne. “Indeed, Sir. I think it can wait after all. We will meet anyway before luncheon.”
Our friend the astrologer, Greg Gloom, slept fitfully that night in Telford. He dreamt that Mars was rising above him. Mars the god of war. And Mars, limping, was walking hand in hand with a woman whose figure was perfect, but her face was covered with a veil. Yet somehow Gloom knew she was a woman of great beauty. Suddenly black dogs bounded across the sky, and as they crossed the zenith they exploded into a cloud of black crows, all shrieking. And their frantic wings caused such a wind that the woman’s veil was torn away: it revealed the exquisite face of Nemesis, the goddess of revenge.
 In the early years of this century, before the Large Company (Curtailment) Act, there was a huge media “conglomerate” run by an Australian family called Murdoch. They were celebrated by the old school politicians who were unprincipled, sycophantic, short-sighted and had muddled, narrow-minded views about economics and economic growth. Once the Purpose Party took power, however, these scoundrels were washed out of Westminster like dung washed from the Augean stables. With no-one to protect them, the Murdoch family was thrown into jail together with a number of other media barons, television executives, celebrities, investment bankers and professors of economics, all having fallen foul of UPOs (Useless Profession Orders).