‘So what’s your take on the global financial situation, Star?’ asked Peter one Sunday afternoon. ‘Looks pretty dire to me. Especially for the Cabal. So what crazy, desperate action are they going to take now? – tell me that. Whatever it is, it won’t be good for the rest of us. Still, I’m just a lowly computer geek. Nothing much I can do about it.’
‘Bah!’ said Star, and leapt in her baby jumper.
‘Bah-tum-bah! Ta-bah! Ta-bah! Ta-bah!’
And the amplitude of the leaping grew alarmingly. Star had been putting on weight like a champion, and Peter hoped the harness was strong enough to take the strain.
‘Okay, so what do you suggest?’
The silence, the stillness, the wide blue eyes staring into his.
‘Just say, “No.”’
‘Just say, “No”?’
‘Just say, “No.”’
‘Sweetie, this isn’t about drugs, you know. And anyway, your Granddad is more than content with his single malt.’
‘Just say, “No.”’
‘I see… Well, I think that’s all we’re getting today.’
At work the next day, Peter received a written order, delivered by hand. What was this, and why hadn’t it been sent by email?
He read it through, and the heat rose to his face. He read it again.
No, this was too much! Since learning of the crimes of his employer three years before, he’d had to suppress his guilt and outrage in order to carry on doing the job. But this was different. This time they expected him to commit the crime himself. How could he do this and live with himself afterwards? But if he didn’t do it, would he get the sack? And if he got the sack, how would they survive? His stomach clenched with the anxiety of it all.
But at that very moment Star’s words came back to him, ringing through his head: ‘Just say no.’
He didn’t normally go to see his boss without an appointment. It wasn’t that he was afraid of Ted Banner; they just didn’t have that sort of relationship. But this couldn’t wait for an appointment. He knocked on the door.
Ted was sitting behind his desk, with his finger on the mute button of his speaker-phone.
‘Good morning, Peter. Can it wait?’
‘It can wait half an hour, sir. Shall I come back?’
His boss released the mute and spoke into the phone.
‘Can I call you back? … Yes, fine… Okay, what’s the problem, Peter?’
‘I’ve received this order, sir.’
‘Okay, let’s take a look. Yup… yup. So what’s the problem?’
‘The problem is minus twenty-five percent.’
‘Oh, I see. And you just wanted to confirm it’s not a mistake?’
‘Well, it’s not a mistake, I can confirm that. Yes, there will probably be fallout, but it won’t be yours to deal with. Will that be all?’
Peter straightened up, and stood his ground.
‘It’s not right.’
‘Right as in…’
‘It’s theft, sir.’
‘Oh, no, no, no, Peter,’ said Ted, laughing. ‘I can assure you it’s absolutely legal and above board. The legislation came in months ago. It just allows creditors over a certain level to make a contribution towards rebalancing the economy. Which, as you know, is frankly teetering on the brink. Better this way than the taxpayer footing the bill again.’
‘“Creditors,” sir? I wouldn’t call them “creditors.” As far as they’re concerned, they’re just ordinary people who’ve put their money in what they think is a safe place. With a bit of interest to cover inflation. What sort of a safe place is it, if they lose twenty-five percent? Now, nought point one percent I can understand. Nought point four percent, even. That’s just a bit of an adjustment. But twenty-five percent, no. That’s not right. I’m not going to do it, sir.’
‘Fine. If it’s a conscience issue, I fully understand. Please send young Raymond up to see me. Good day, Peter.’
‘The boss wants to see you, Raymond.’
‘My God, what’s the matter, Peter? You’re all red in the face. What did he say? It’s not Redundancy, surely?’
‘No, no, nothing like that.’
‘What is it, then?’
Peter handed him the order.
‘Minus twenty-five percent! Is that right?’
‘Ted says it’s right.’
‘But that’s daylight robbery. Stealing people’s savings to go into the coffers of the Global Elite!’
‘Couldn’t have put it better myself. I told him I wouldn’t do it. He’s probably going to pass it on to you.’
‘Well, he can stuff that!’ said Raymond, making for the door.
‘Steady, Raymond. Don’t be rude, now. You can say “no” without being rude. I’m just thinking of your future, lad.’
As Raymond left, the rest of the Team clustered round to look at the order.
‘If he won’t do it, Ted will get one of you to do it.’
‘Well, I’m not doing it,’ said Alan.
‘Me neither,’ said Rolf.
‘Nor me,’ said Gwen.
‘Well, somebody else, then,’ said Peter. ‘Or he’ll do it himself.’
‘People ought to know about this,’ said Gwen, ‘so they have a chance to move their money before it happens.’
‘There’s no time,’ said Peter. ‘It’ll happen within the hour, I should imagine.’
‘Unless we delay things a bit,’ said Rolf.
‘Yeah. Tie up the system,’ said Gwen. ‘Good idea.’
‘And then we can get on the social media and send out the word,’ said Alan. ‘It’ll go viral within the hour, I guarantee.’
‘But sabotaging the system is a serious thing to do. It could put us all in prison,’ said Peter.
‘Couldn’t we make it look like a mistake?’ asked Rolf.
‘With all the safeguards we’ll have to override? Not likely,’ said Peter.
Which is when Raymond reappeared, looking as cheerful as ever.
‘How did it go?’ asked Gwen.
‘No problem,’ he replied.
‘What do you mean, “No problem”’?’ asked Peter.
‘Well, Ted asked me to do it, and I said: “No problem!”’ He beamed manically at them all. ‘Which buys us an hour or two, if I’m any judge. What are we going to do, comrades?’
Bloody hell, he’s enjoying this, thought Peter.
‘What we’re going to do, Raymond,’ he replied, ‘Or rather, what I’m going to do, since I’m nearing retirement anyway – is to sabotage the system so that nobody can load the negative interest rate onto it. And you lot can deny all knowledge.’
‘And then we’re going to get on the Social Media and let everybody know,’ said Alan.
‘Great!’ said Raymond. ‘It’ll go viral within the hour.’
‘That’s what I said,’ said Alan.
‘Well, you three get on with that, and I’ll help Peter here,’ said Raymond.
‘No need for that,’ said Peter stiffly. ‘You’ve got a career ahead of you, Raymond. No need for you to be implicated.’
‘Leave it out, Peter. Let’s spread the blame around a little. And the glory too, eh? Don’t forget the glory, comrades!’
He was right. The news did go viral within the hour. It led to the Great Bank Run, and the hacking and freezing of bank computer systems throughout the UK. It was also the straw that broke the camel’s back, triggering ‘We Say No’ demonstrations throughout the land. And it wasn’t just the so-called Conspiracy Theorists on the streets this time – it was people of every age and every walk of life. Within a couple of days the demonstrations had spread across Europe and the rest of the world. The ordinary people of the world had had enough, and they weren’t going to take it any more.
While they were at it, they demanded Full Disclosure. And they got it, too.
Peter was sure the police would come after the Team, but they didn’t. They were too busy dealing with the demonstrations, which were mostly peaceful, but continued day and night for two and a half weeks.
Then came the mass arrests of the Cabal, a new Global Financial System, and the re-distribution of the stolen wealth of the world. Much of it was channelled into projects for the reconstruction of war-torn areas, the ending of poverty and homelessness, the cleaning up of the planet, and the release of suppressed technologies – bringing free energy, replicators, advanced health technology and space travel to the world at last.
And the facts about the sabotage at Darklys Bank didn’t finally emerge until the Cabal Tribunals, when they cast a golden glow of heroism over Peter and the Team.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So let’s just wind the clock back to those two and a half weeks of chaos…
The banks, petrol stations and supermarkets were shut, and nobody was working except the police, the military and the emergency services. Raymond and the Team spent all their time at the ‘We Say No’ demonstrations, and constantly texted Peter, inviting him to join them. But he declined, choosing instead to sit at home sipping his single malt, and waiting for the police to knock on his door.
But waiting to be arrested wasn’t the main reason for staying at home. The main reason was the unstable emotional state which Peter now found himself in, veering wildly between elation, gloom, panic and tears.
It’s not that he had any regrets. He’d done the right thing, after all. Nor did he see himself as a hero; he was just the man on the spot, and any right-thinking man would have done the same.
But the consequences of the Team’s mutiny were so ludicrously out of proportion to what they’d actually done. All they’d done is prevent a wicked act and spread the word about it, and in response the whole world had come crashing down around their ears! Maybe it needed to come crashing down. Maybe things would be better from now on. But the crash had shaken Peter to the core.
He could see Maureen was worried about him. He wasn’t getting drunk, exactly, but drinking at such a steady rate was out of character. And she’d never seen him cry before. Nor did it help that she sometimes caught him laughing for no apparent reason. She watched him constantly, staring through the kitchen window as he paced around the garden, checking on him frequently as he sat in the lounge staring into space.
He hated to see her so worried, but what he could tell her without worrying her even more? If he went to prison it would be the end of her world. But it might never happen, and he didn’t want to disturb her peace of mind for no good reason. So he kept it all to himself, as usual.
They didn’t see Star for the whole of those two and a half weeks, because her parents were staying at home guarding the vegetable garden from looters and watching Disclosure programs on the telly. And Peter missed her, desperately. Until she came back, he had no one to confide in.
When everything had calmed down a bit, the family came for lunch. In the afternoon Pixie went upstairs for a nap, as usual, while Kevin and Maureen went out into the garden, leaving Peter and Star in the lounge.
‘Well, little one,’ said Peter, ‘It’s been ages. I’ve missed you. And so much has happened.’
But she behaved as if he wasn’t there, busily banging her rattle on the bars of her play pen, and singing, ‘Dah, dah, dah!’
Peter was unprepared for this; it had never happened before. She had always been as ready as he was for their exchanges. Had they all been in his imagination after all? Had she reverted to normal babyhood? Or had she simply forgotten him? After all, two and a half weeks was a long time in a baby’s life. The idea made him feel quite bereft.
He cleared his throat. ‘Only, I was wondering if you had any comment to make about… what I did. I mean, last time you said, “Just say no.” And I was wondering, did I overdo it? You know, maybe go a bit too far?’
Maybe she couldn’t hear him. He could hardly hear himself over the banging of the rattle and the happy singing. He went over and squatted beside the pen.
‘I was just wondering, little one, whether you had any thoughts about what I did? You know, at the bank?… Only, I would really like to know… Little one?… Star?’
But she continued to ignore him, focussing on hitting the bars as hard as she could and making the maximum amount of noise. His disappointment was acute, but what could he do? If she wasn’t interested, she wasn’t interested. In the end, with a sigh, he pushed himself to his feet and headed for the garden.
But just as he was passing through the French doors, the voice rang in his head again, as clear as ever.
‘You did well.’
He whipped round. Star was sitting quite still and staring at him, her blue eyes wide, the rattle temporarily forgotten. Then she winked, chuckled, and returned to the task in hand.
He watched her for a moment. Yes, he did feel relief. She thought he’d done the right thing, and that was great. But he also felt dissatisfied; he’d been hoping for more. But what? A conversation? A proper debrief? An unburdening? She’s a baby, for goodness’ sake! he told himself, and turned back towards the garden.
It was obvious that Maureen and Kevin had been talking about him, because they looked so awkward. Maureen mumbled something about tea and made for the kitchen, while Kevin strolled towards his father on stiff, self-conscious legs.
‘No newspapers, Dad,’ he said. ‘That’s a bit of a blow.’
‘Not really, lad. I’ve had my fill of news for the moment. In fact, I’ve got indigestion.’
‘Yeah. I know what you mean.’
‘So… how are you doing?’ ventured Kevin.
‘Mum’s been talking to you, hasn’t she?’
‘Yeah. I think she’s a bit worried.’
‘I know she is, and I can understand why, but I don’t know what to say to her without making her worry even more.’
‘Is that right?… So what’s going on, Dad?’
‘Do you really want to know? I wasn’t going to burden you, but it would be good to get it off my chest. If you didn’t mind.’
‘No problem. Fire away.’
So Peter told him all about Darklys Bank, about the negative interest rate order, the mutiny of the Team, the global consequences, and the shock it had all been to his system. And lastly, the likelihood of arrest and imprisonment. He didn’t look at his son while he was talking – they stood side by side and he directed his remarks to the broad beans.
And he continued to stare at them for some time after he’d finished. He was fascinated to observe that the chaotic feelings were already settling down inside him, and that he felt so much better for confiding in his son. Why had he never done this before?
‘Dad?’ said Kevin’s voice at last, and Peter turned to face him. The expression on his son’s face was an unfamiliar one. It wasn’t contempt or distaste or irritation, or any of the other expressions he was used to seeing there. In their place was a soft, naked expression – a kind of wonder.
‘This is unbelievable, Dad… I’m so proud of you… And you’ve been carrying this burden on your own all this time? Look, can we go and tell Mum about it together? No need to worry about how she’ll take it. She’s as tough as old boots. And she’d go to the barricades for you, Dad… I think I would, too.’ And Peter was astonished to see tears in his son’s eyes.
‘How amazing for Star to have a Granddad like you,’ Kevin continued, as they walked towards the house. ‘I can hardly wait to tell her all about it when she’s older.’
‘She already knows.’
‘In fact, she should probably take most of the credit… Don’t look so worried, lad, I haven’t gone bonkers.’
‘After all, it was you and Pixie who went on about the new children and their psychic abilities, wasn’t it?… So that’s the other thing I need to tell you about. But it can wait till Pixie wakes up – she might like to hear about it too.’
‘You know, Dad, you’ve turned into a bottomless pit of surprises.’
‘Do you think so?’
‘And I used to think you were just a rude, ignorant, pig-headed, bad-tempered old bastard.’
‘Fair comment, fair comment,’ said Peter.
‘So what I don’t understand is, how did such a dreadful specimen of humanity end up becoming a hero?’
‘Can’t help you there, lad… But for the record, I used to think you were an ungrateful, condescending, arrogant, lazy sod.’
‘I can relate to that,’ said Kevin.
‘So what I don’t understand is, how did a such a no-hoper end up becoming a first-rate husband, father and son?’
‘Well, I… Thank you, Dad.’
‘Don’t mention it. But it’s certainly a bit of a puzzle.’
‘It is, isn’t it? I mean, what’s going on?’
‘Beats me,’ replied Peter, scratching his head. ‘I know, let’s ask your mother.’
And Maureen looked up in astonishment as they entered the kitchen together, laughing.
© Sue J Davis 2015
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