philosophy n use of reason and argument in search for truth
and knowledge of reality, esp. of the causes and nature of
things, and of the principles governing existence,
perception, human behaviour, and the material universe...
[French from Latin from Greek: philos, friend, sophia,
--Pocket Oxford English Dictionary, Seventh Edition
"A clean slate."
"Not quite, General."
"We've removed only one layer of government. The top layer, to be
sure, but only one layer nevertheless. Most of the wastage and
sheer bloody-mindedness that we have to eradicate exists at lower
Wye thought about this for a moment, then nodded. An hour had
passed since the second broadcast, and the Three had moved back
into the room that the General had awoken in that morning. Was it
only this morning? Shit! I only woke up nine hours ago - seems
like a lot longer. General Absolaam Wye, absolute ruler of the
United Kingdom, rose to his feet and started to pace the room.
He paused in mid-stride, then turned to Deborah, "He's right,
isn't he? So what do we do now?"
"That's the tough part, Absolaam. We've got some ideas, but our
detailed plans only took us up to this moment."
"For fuck's sake why?" Wye yelled, losing control for a moment.
"Because," Graham smoothly interjected, calm as ever, "Because we
thought that rigid plans made in advance of knowing the facts
would be more of a hindrance than a help."
Deborah nodded, "Those kind of plans are what got this country
into a mess in the first place. We're going to have to learn the
facts as we go along - and think on our feet."
The General sat down heavily, sighed deeply, and closed his eyes
for a moment before saying, "I know, you're right. And I'm sorry."
The three of them stood, sat and paced that room for what seemed
an eternity - but was in fact less than half an hour.
Then, "Money!" cried Wye.
"Money is the key," Wye elaborated, "If we can gain control of
the money supply - I mean absolute control - then the future will
become one hell of a lot easier."
Deborah considered this for a moment then agreed. Graham, too,
pondered the idea, and voiced his agreement at the same time as
"The problem, then," Wye went on, "Is: How do we get control of
the money supply?"
"Not a problem at all," Deborah said. Seeing the two men's
puzzled expressions, she elaborated, "We can do anything we wish
right now - while the images of terror from the broadcast are
still fresh in people's minds."
"I'd almost forgotten about that damned broadcast," Wye said,
"But you're right, of course - though we'll have to act quickly."
He strode to the table which dominated the room, and pushed a
button on the intercom he found on it. "Get me the heads of every
bank and building society in the country," he said to the private
secretary on the other end, "And get them in here within the
next," he glanced at Deborah, who showed him two fingers of her
right hand in the victory symbol, "Two hours," Wye listened to
protests from the other end of the connection for a bare instant
before he snapped, "No excuses - just do it. Now."
Two hours later - in most cases, dishevelled from long trips in a
style as far from first class as it is possible to get without
actually leaving the plane, train or helicopter - the twelve most
financially influential men in the country were standing in front
They were standing, because Wye had decided not to provide them
with seats. For fully ten minutes, they stood in silence - many
with fear etched on their faces - while the General, seated at the
long table, merely stared at them. Their own glances switched from
Wye's left to his right - from Graham to Deborah - and never, ever
lingered on the General himself.
Then, Wye said, "Gentlemen," and they all appeared to tense up
even more than they already had been, "Did you all see my two
broadcasts earlier this evening?" A chorus of nods and murmured
words of agreement followed.
"Do you, then," the General continued, "Doubt my word when I tell
you that you will each do exactly as I say?" This time, the chorus
consisted of shaking heads and murmured 'No's. Wye was reminded of
a flock of sheep as he went on, "So. Deborah?"
"You see before you, gentlemen," she began, "One telephone per
person. Kindly lift the receiver of the telephone in front of you
and call your banks. All gold, money, gems and other valuables in
every vault in each bank is to be transferred to the vault of the
Bank of England within the next four hours. Do I make myself
"But," one brave - or foolish - banker spoke up, "With no
capital, how is my bank to retain its credibility? How can I
continue in business with nothing to back me up?"
Deborah smiled, sweetly, and the banker's heart rose in
anticipated reprieve. A hope dashed as he heard her next words:
"Would you prefer," she asked, "To lose your business or lose your
"Now - dial."
Twelve hands reached simultaneously for twelve telephones. The
foolish banker's 'phone was the first to be lifted, and his was
the first set of instructions to be given.
"Now, gentlemen," Wye went on, once all phones had been replaced
in their cradles, "For the next item of business. Deborah?"
"Thank you, General," she replied. Turning to the bankers, she
said, "Another series of transactions await you in one hour's
time. Oh, and I hope," she smiled again, "For your sakes that you
have not played false with me. I really do." The twelve men were
ushered outside, into the corridor, where they were to wait out
the next hour.
When all had left, Wye turned to Deborah, and asked, "What second
group of transactions, Deborah? I mean - I realise we have to keep
them here at least until we can be certain that all valuables have
been transferred to the Bank of England, but what else?"
Deborah's tinkling laugh sounded once more as she answered his
question, "Absolaam, don't you realise that most of the 'money' in
this country is in the form of numbers inside computers? We might
have transferred the physical stuff - we'll know for sure in four
or five hours - but we'll also have to transfer the accounts
themselves. And for that, we'll require," A knock sounded at the
At the shouted, "Come in!" the door opened, and a trio of twenty-
something young men walked hesitantly into the room and stood in
front of the General. He motioned to Deborah to handle them, as he
had not expected anything like this at all.
"Ah, young men," she began. At their flush, she smiled softly,
"We have a little job for you. You are to travel at once to the
Bank of England, where you will be given full access to the Bank
computers. You will be separated and will, separately, supervise
the transfer of funds into that computer, in the form of new
accounts and deposits into existing accounts.
"No money is to be withdrawn from any account at that bank, and
every account in every machine which communicates with the Bank of
England computer is to be transferred into the Bank of England
computer before the connection is severed. Do you understand?"
"Yes, miss," the eldest of the three began, a nervous-sounding
man of - Wye guessed - twenty-eight years. A lock of his black
hair waved from side to side over his forehead as he talked, and
the General had to suppress the urge to slick the errant lock back
"Deborah," said Ms Greene, breaking - thankfully - the train of
The young programmer flushed slightly, fingered his collar - he
was obviously unused to wearing a shirt-and-tie - then started
again, "Yes, miss Deborah, but...well, is the Bank's computer big
enough to hold all of these accounts? In memory, that is. And is
it fast enough to handle them?"
"Good question," Graham interrupted, "I think, General, that it
would be advisable to commandeer one or two of the largest and
fastest computers available as soon as possible. In the meantime,
however, we'll forget speed and concentrate on memory and disk
space. How much would you say you require, young man?"
"Impossible to say right now, sir."
"Well, we'll send somebody along with additional drives for the
machine, and plenty of storage media - disks, magnetic tape, and
the like - and you can use as much as you feel is necessary. Order
more if you have to."
"Thank you, sir," replied the spokesman.
"No need to thank me. You can do that when the job is finished
and you receive a healthy pay cheque. How much would you say, my
dear?" he added, addressing Deborah.
"Hmmm - say, ten million each at close of contract? Yes - that
seems reasonable enough," the three software engineers's eyes
fairly bulged at the sound of the amount offered for such a simple
task. "But," Deborah addressed the young men again, "For this
stage, you will receive one million pounds sterling. At the end of
the second - and final - stage, you will receive the balance to
make a total of ten million pounds each.
"Be warned, however," Deborah said, "that if there is any
suggestion - even the slightest suspicion - that a back door has
been left in to the system, or that any of the money in these
accounts has been stolen by even one of the three of you, then
your lives - all three of them - will be forfeit. Think of the
high rate of pay as a guarantee of your honesty."
She licked her lips before going on - an action which increased
the agitation amongst the young men, "Your work will, of course,
be checked at the end of both stages by a team of three other
programmers. Now, off you go to the Bank of England, and be ready
to start work in one hour from now."
The three programmers left, and two others, who remained in the
cabinet room, relaxed for a short while. The one who did not relax
just yet was Deborah. As the one of their trio with the most
computing knowledge, she accompanied the programmers about their
An hour later, the bankers were recalled and more phone calls
ensured the transfer of all accounts to the Bank of England. Five
hours later, every bank in the country was bankrupt, and the Bank
of England owned all of their computer-recorded and physical
As an afterthought, Wye ordered that a maximum of only one
hundred pounds could be withdrawn from any account each week, to
make sure, as he said, "That the cash doesn't all suddenly vanish
overseas when the moneymen recover, and realise that they've been
robbed." Then he grinned that patented grin of his.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,"
said the Cat.
"I don't much care where --" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
--Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Absolaam Wye woke up, stretching and yawning. For a moment, a
very brief moment, he wondered for a second time where he was.
Then the events of the previous day clicked into place, and he
found that he wasn't too surprised when his brain belatedly
supplied him with the answer.
In another room, next to the General's, Deborah and Graham Greene
also woke. In their two cases, though, there was no sense of
disorientation, however fleeting - they knew where they were, and
why they were there. They looked at each other with adoration in
their eyes. Purely and simply happy to be alive.
Gerald, Dot and the twins woke also, to thoughts which they tried
to control - wonderings as to what horrors would greet them on
this new day. Gerald rose to go to work, and Dot went to soothe
the twins, who had started to cry again. Mrs Wainthrop woke, and
just listened to the tolling bell of her alarm clock.
"Okay, Deborah," Wye said, over breakfast, "Do we have a count of
the amount of available cash yet?"
"Yes, Absolaam," she reached past her bowl of cereal to a dog-
eared notebook which somebody had been using as a table mat.
Deborah glared briefly at her husband, who had the good sense to
look chastened, before checking in the notebook, "The rough total
is vastly better than I had expected - mainly due to a little idea
I had once the account details started to come in."
"And what was that, my love?" Graham asked.
"Well, I noticed that - excuse me," she swallowed the mouthful of
cereal she'd been talking around, then took a sip of tea to wash
it down. "When the accounts started to come through, I noticed
that somebody that I knew was a multi-millionaire had far less
than one million pounds in his accounts.
"So, I asked the lads to flag all accounts which showed a similar
pattern - that is, accounts which showed any contact with accounts
in foreign banks. I also asked them if it were possible to obtain
details of accounts in off-shore tax shelters, Swiss banks, and so
"They couldn't get me anything on Swiss bank accounts, but I did
end up with some rather interesting details about other foreign
"And then, my darling?" Graham again - Wye simply nodded
encouragement and continued eating his fried eggs and sipping the
scalding hot coffee he needed before he could start the day.
"And then, Graham, I made a large number of 'phone calls
and...what's the word? Ah yes...I encouraged - no, I urged - the
individuals involved to contribute the contents of these off-shore
accounts to the new government. Most of them complied."
"Most?" Wye asked, raising his eyebrows in Spock-like surprise.
"Yes," Deborah went on, "Only most. About half a dozen offered to
contribute half of those accounts, and one person refused
outright. I accepted the offers and the refusal, and made no
explicit threats," she laughed at the thought, "I'd guess that
when the others find out that they could also have refused with
impunity then they'll feel quite ill."
"Upset too, maybe," replied Wye, laughing, "Maybe even demand
their money back?"
Graham shook his head emphatically, "They can demand, but they
won't get it. You made no threats - veiled or otherwise - my
dear?" Deborah indicated that she hadn't. "And you recorded the
"Of course - do you think I'm an idiot?"
"Of course not, my darling, but I had to ask," soothed Graham,
"Then that's that - the money was obtained without extortion, and
several people are even on record as refusing our request for it,
with no action taken against them for doing so. Those transactions
will stand up in any international court, or I'm a Dutchman's
Deborah coughed. When Graham looked over, she grimaced and said,
"Well, actually, dear, you are a Du..."
Graham waved his hand, "Yes, yes - I know. It's just an
express..." then, seeing the half-suppressed smile on his wife's
face, he suddenly burst out laughing - a way of relieving tension
which Wye soon joined them in.
When the three of them had settled down a little, Wye said, "You
still haven't told us the final total, Deborah."
"Oh, didn't I?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Well, bearing in mind the exchange rates at the moment, I make
it the equivalent of roughly eight hundred billion pounds
sterling, except that it's spread across eleven different
Both Wye and Graham exhaled noisily, "phew," their jaws dropping
in astonishment. "Let me," Wye caught his breath, "Let me just
write that down. Maybe it won't look as big as it sounds." He took
up the notebook, and scribbled, on the back page:
"No - it still looks enormous. Hell, it looks even bigger written
down than it sounded out loud. All this money was floating around
in this country?"
"Not all in this country, Absolaam. As I said, I recalled a lot
of capital - half of our total - from foreign bank accounts. There
was about four hundred billion in this country, though."
"By fuck, you've been busy. 400 billion stashed away in foreign
accounts, did you say?" Deborah confirmed this. "Incredible," both
Wye and Graham stared at the figure for nearly a minute before
Deborah's words began to sink in properly.
Graham was the first to realise what his wife had said, "Uh,
Deborah. Did you say that half of this money was recalled from
"Yes, that's right."
"And the money 'recalled' was donated to the new government by
the people you 'phoned last night?"
"Yes - I was wondering when you'd realise that," Deborah stood
up, her breakfast completed, "Gentlemen, this new government has a
starting bank balance equal to the amount of money that the rest
of the country has put together.
"If we stopped taxation right now, we could continue to run the
country as it was run under the old government for about eighteen
months before the money ran out."
"Actually, my dear, it would be more like two or three years -
maybe longer. You haven't taken into account the potential return
on investments made using the 'surplus' amount," Graham
"True, true - thank you, my husband."
"In any case," the General broke in, "It's academic, since we
will not be carrying on as the previous government did. What we
need to do is to use this little windfall," he grimaced at the
irony of his own words, "To re-build the major sectors of this
"Hold that thought for a second, Absolaam," Deborah said, walking
over to the telephones, "while I make a 'phone call."
Graham and Wye talked animatedly about the possibilities until
Deborah rejoined them with the words, "Make that one thousand
billion pounds sterling, gentlemen."
The two men's jaws dropped again, and beads of sweat sprouted on
Wye's forehead. Deborah's husband eventually managed to pull
himself together enough to ask, "Why...where did this extra
mo...how did you manage to get that amount of cash?"
Deborah enjoyed her celebrity for the moment in the face of their
renewed astonishment, before answering, "Our little trio of
software engineers has been working all night. Incidentally," she
added, "I thought they deserved a bonus for their work, and
promised them an extra five million apiece - is that okay,
"Whatever you say, Deborah," the General replied, "If they've
managed to get hold of an extra six hundred billion pounds
sterling from somewhere then there's no doubt that they deserve a
massive bonus. But where did this money come from?"
"Basically," she said, "It came from big business - large
corporations, multinationals, and the like. Since I had such
success in obtaining large 'donations' from obscenely wealthy
individuals, I thought that the same tactics, if applied quickly,
could apply to wealthy corporations," Deborah smiled in
satisfaction - the smile of a successful predator - as she
concluded, "Apparently, the tactics worked."
"It is possible, I suppose, that many of these corporations are
hoping that we - as a government, I mean - will feel indebted to
them for their large donations," Graham broke in, "And that we'll
remember them when we start handing out multi-billion-pound
"Hmmm - what approach did you use, Deborah?"
"A simple enough approach, Absolaam. I instructed my young men to
take the same kind of tack that I used on our wealthy donors, but
also to casually let slip that over the coming several years our
new government would be spending one thousand billion pounds
sterling on such projects as re-building the infrastructure,
financing research projects, and the like. It looks like the
combination of carrot and stick worked."
Deborah smiled again, as she added, "I hear that the smallest
single donation was of ten billion pounds, and the largest was
over fifty billion. I'd guess that the stories I've been hearing
over the past decades - about some multinationals having more
money than most governments - are probably true."
"Yes, but I still have two more questions. Firstly," Wye said,
holding up the index finger of his left hand, "Do we, as a
government, in fact have an account holding one thousand billion
"Yes and no," Wye grimaced at Deborah's words, so she held up her
hand to ask him not to interrupt her, "Yes, we have an account
with the equivalent of one million million sterling, but no, it's
not all in sterling - it's spread over several different
currencies: mainly sterling, deutschmarks and yen, but we also
have smaller amounts of French, Swiss and Belgian francs and US
and Australian dollars, along with some South American
"Do you have the figures?"
"Not on the 600 billion I've only just heard about, but last
night's haul included the equivalent of around sixty billion
pounds in Deutschmarks, fifty-four in Yen, twenty spread across
francs from various countries, another twenty in US dollars and
ten in Australian. And, finally, the equivalent of around twenty
million pounds each in Brazilian cruzeiros, Ecuadorean sucres and
both Columbian and Mexican pesos. The remaining fifty nine percent
of the cash is in pounds sterling."
"How the fuck did you remember all that? No - skip that, stupid
question," the General laughed. "My next question was going to be:
Are we really going to spend those kinds of amounts of money? But
skip that, as well, because it looks like we are - at least, we
are if we're going to be rebuilding the infrastructure of the
country, even leaving aside any additional research budgets.
"So," the General summed up, "we're almost back where we started.
We've got the money - a thousand billion pounds of the stuff - but
we still have to decide what to do with it. Ideas?"
"Just a comment right now, Absolaam," Deborah said, "With that
kind of money, we might just be able to solve all our problems
without fear of the Half-hour Syndrome. In fact", she added, "We
should be able to cover expenses fairly painlessly."
All three smiled in relief that a second possible cause of revolt
- hardship leading to discontent - had been so easily removed.
That night, Dot and Gerald settled down to watch the evening
news. The lead item, like last night, featured a speech by General
Wye. Gerald reached for the remote control, ready to change over,
but Dot insisted that they watch, saying, "It might be something
important, dear - you never know," She compromised a little,
though, by sending the twins off to bed.
"Hello again," the General's voice sounded from the television
set, "Tonight, my news will - hopefully - be a little less..." he
smiled, grimly, "dramatic than it was last night."
"Evil bastard - laughing after he killed all those people," said
Gerald, before his wife shut him up. Still grumbling, he returned
his concentration to the television screen.
"Earlier today," Wye was saying, "All bank and building society
accounts were relocated to the Bank of England. This should not
affect you, as private citizens, adversely - you can still use
your old cheque books, bank at the same branch office you used to,
and so on.
"Of perhaps more interest to you are my plans for the future,"
Gerald and Dot leaned forward in their chairs, and Dot turned the
"In recent decades," Wye said, taking on a more serious tone,
"the fabric of this country has been allowed to crumble away. In
consequence, I am forced to rebuild it all, virtually, from
scratch - and the first things to be rebuilt will be the telephone
"These will all be replaced, during the coming year, with fibre-
optic cables. The first effect of this will be better 'phone
reception. Subsequent," ("What?" asked Gerald. "It means
'Following,' dear," Dot replied) "Effects will be more wide-
"All of this work requires people to perform it. All who wish to,
and are capable of heavy work, will assist the construction
companies in this task.
"This work is not compulsory, neither is it paid work. Before you
decide whether to take part or not, however, you should be aware
that those who choose to take part will receive a substantial
bonus once the work is completed. The choice, I repeat, is yours.
"Now to education. The first stage in my education programme is
to ensure that every person of age five years and over is able to
both read, write and type. Day and evening classes will be set up
free of charge for all adults and children who wish to learn one
or all of these skills.
"These classes are not compulsory, but I warn you that they will
be free only for the period of the coming year. After that time,
literacy classes will - I am sure - suddenly become very
expensive, and," here, Wye grinned into the camera again, "Very
After a few closing words to the effect that the machinery of
government would - for the moment - go on as it had done before,
the General's speech was over with, and the television set
During the gloom that followed, Dot turned hesitantly to Gerald,
and asked, "You know that I know about your...problem?"
He grunted, "Yeah - we are married, after all."
"Well, why don't you take one of those litera..."
"No way. I'd feel like a little kid - not to mention the shame of
it. I don't want other people knowing I can't read - what would
"It's just...well, that General didn't say that everybody had to
learn how to read and write. But, then, last night he didn't say
that everybody had to follow his orders - and look what happened
to the people that didn't."
There was a long, silent wait. Gerald shifted uncomfortably
before saying, hesitantly, "Well, maybe I will wander down to
those classes after all."
"Yes, you do that. And I'll go with you, and learn how to type.
I've always meant to." She thought for a moment, before adding,
"Do you think they'd teach the twins to read and write as well, or
is it too early, do you think? Maybe they could do with a head
When the four of them registered for lessons the following day,
they found that three years old wasn't too early to start at all.
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