July the 13th.
This morning I received an innocuous SMS from an anonymous number. Yes, you can still send such an archaic thing as a text message! It wasn't the content of the text which was significant, but the fact of its sending. So prompted I checked one of my little used but still highly illegal dark net accounts and found a blurt from Neil Moore, someone who I've known professionally and as a friend for more years than I care to remember.
He works for the Portsmouth Record, a hub which evolved from a former large-circulation local newspaper. Somehow the Record has survived; much adapted, until now. Much of the credit for that can be given to Neil, and the incisive style of journalism he inspires there. Sadly it's becoming more of a rarity these days.
He wants to meet me for a meal and a chat. It'll be worth it to see him and find out what's going on. I ping him an acceptance and agree to meet at one of our usual rendezvous. I lock my folder of smart cards along with my scroll in my draw (you never can be too careful, it would be just your luck to get tagged by a random beam sweep, and it's rumoured the latest generation of scanners can overwhelm the protection of a screened wallet) and walk to a covert working lunch.
This poor old city has suffered more than its far share of hard knocks over the years. From the Luftwaffe blitz, to the botched redevelopments of the 60s and 70s, then the failed shopping centres of the 1980s and 90s, Pompey has endured it all. Now the city centre is being remade in the name of progress once more; this time to cram yet more people into the limited space available: A forest of termite towers are planned to reach upwards to accommodate an ever growing population of rootless itinerants. Their construction seems, like everything else in the Fed, to progress in fits and starts before grinding to a halt once more.
What I see going up bears only a passing resemblance at present to the idealistic artist's impression of the finished towers displayed on the hoardings: The buildings have a predominantly south-facing aspect to make the most of the available solar energy, and a ubiquitous aerogenerator is built into the topmost floors. The overall effect is more insipid than the overbearing brutalism of traditional command economy mass housing.
At the moment the large tower crane on site is aiding some workers unfurling a large banner along the side of the first tower to stretch haltingly upward; RISING ABOVE ADVERSITY! it reads. Apparently reaching the halfway point of its construction is itself a reason to celebrate.
Some fortunate people may well be rising above adversity, but the majority of us are still well and truly stuck in it. For only the select new model citizens will be considered fit to live in one of the new hutches while the Connie leadership will claim the higher, more spacious and private apartments for themselves as a well deserved reward for their unceasing efforts in charting our course towards their promised land. The hypocritical fucktards!
I'm relieved my housing needs are taken care of for the moment. When Karen and I separated we were fortunate to do so at the right time to sell at the top of that particular bubble, so having the liquidity to buy as the prices plunged once more. This was at the same time the Consensus were running live economic experiments with policies gyrating from near-communism to laissez-faire turbo capitalism and back before settling on a schizophrenic combination of the worst aspects of both models.
Eventually I managed to get a commonhold micro flat in Waterlooville. Existing in a legal limbo somewhere in the muddled space between social housing and privately owned, it may not be perfect but it's far better then some of the traps I might have fallen into. At least as a part owner my tenancy is secured - at least until the Connies decide to go on another slash and burn session through the laws of property rights - and I don't have any conditionality requirements written into my agreement. That reason alone was probably why commonhold part-ownership was short-lived, but the existing contracts, mine included, remain inviolate for the time being. The costs may be steep, but it's worth it.
Things have changed a lot since then. When I've been out news gathering I've seen some of the new spartan single person and childless couple accommodation now filling many of the formerly derelict office blocks in the city centre. I couldn't imagine living in such a place without going mad. These days if you're fortunate you can look forward to living in a tiny space with partitions so impermanent they flex if you push hard on them; and don't expect much in the way of privacy, acoustic insulation, security against your meagre belongings being stolen; or even your own individual bathroom for that matter.
Not only will you pay through the nose for the privilege of having a jerry-built roof over your head, but you'll also have to regularly jump through hoops of reassessment to prove you truly deserve to continue living there; for in the view of the Consensus being settled and secure breeds complacency, which in turn will lead inevitably to an unacceptably indolent coasting along; a not giving of one's all, all of the time; which will never do.
We're told these are only temporary stopgap measures until we finally get on top of the housing crisis, and more permanent provision can be made. Things will be better in the near but always receding future, once the economy has fully stabilised; but in the meantime we should be thankful for what we have, and at least console ourselves we're a step up from a Slop N Drop.
You may think you have it bad but at least you're not living in one of the trailblazing completely Connietised blocks: There things get really strange.
I've not seen it with my own eyes but I'm told the social experimenters have remodeled the interior spaces to reflect their 'scientific' ideas regarding the development of society and the fashioning of a new collective consciousness. Intimacy is restricted only to the bedroom, with all other daily living activities taking place in minimalistic communal areas.
This, it is believed, will result in the creation of a more harmonious people as a result of them living so closely with their fellows in self-policing communities; as well as removing the wasteful 'need' for individually owned furniture and domestic appliances; possibly even kitchen utensils and cutlery. Not forgetting that by removing 'unnecessary' rooms and reducing individual living space, more people can be squeezed into the same sized building, and the energy which will be saved by living together.
Any increase in the size of an individual family can be accommodated by allocating extra rooms as required, and moving the existing occupants further along to another. With little in the way of personal possessions to take with them this should pose few difficulties. There are no traditional locks on the doors planned for these brave new homes; as a condition of their tenancy all residents must submit their biometric data for access control purposes, and consent that even their bedrooms may be searched at will without notice by the building's management committee. Why I've no idea. What are they looking for, or do they expect to find?
This then is their blueprint for the society of the future. An insecure population of mobile, mutably expectant workers ready to be deployed at short notice to wherever they may be needed. I find it both bizarre and disturbing how some people could conceive this to be a desirable lifestyle to impose upon others; and for those others to uncomplainingly submit themselves to it. Yet these are the times we're living through.
However my experience, borne out by my time on the IMS news desk, is that living cheek by jowl inevitably breeds mental illness and conflict. I wonder how long it will be before the first of many ambulances are called to these vertical utopias when they are populated? Not that a few stabbings - even though only round ended knives are permitted - or suicides will make any difference. The social scientists are allowed more-or-less free rein to meddle with peoples' lives as they wish; provided what they do doesn't adversely affect the economy.
Parts of Portsmouth are a soul-destroying eyesore, but I dread the thought of a domino line of those domineering towers marching Godzilla-like across the city, obliterating the scruffy terraces and miserable low rise flats in their path. Just looking at them would be enough to bring on an episode of depression; such is their ability to crush one's spirit.
It would be better to keep the down-at-heel familiarity of the city we know, rather than erasing the way of life we are used to and fixing the Connie ideology in the lowering permanence of concrete. I fervently hope that something prevents these awful plans from coming to fruition.
Just past the hoardings of the site is the new statue commemorating the life of John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood. His bronze clown figure tribute was commissioned and paid for by his friends in the teeth of fierce opposition from the you-know-who. It is there I meet Neil.
"Hi Rich! It's good to see you!"
"You as well!"
"Where do you fancy going? There's a new Fair Food opened near the Guildhall, or we could go to EmDee's."
"No, I wouldn't touch that oily ProTex with a barge pole! I'll have a real morsel of meat and some proper veg!"
"Allright! Fair Food it is!"
Eating out in the post-Crises Fed has changed as much as the rest of our lives. Most of the fast food outlets have disappeared as a result of the mandatory weight loss targets of the Obesity Reduction Act, and the fact people don't have the money to afford so little nutrition for so high a price. These days eating out on a whim is a luxury few can afford; home cooking or meals from Community Canteens have largely taken over, though you'll still find the occasional SubSarnie, or EmDee's (as the well-known burger chain rebranded itself to move with the times and adapt to the meat shortage is now named) for desperate hunger pangs. At the prices charged for real meat or the substitute Protein Texture you'd have to be both desperate and hungry! However some chains still continue to do a steady trade; such as Fair Food.
They are one of the few successful survivors of the former High Streets. Their well-known predecessor had a branch in almost every town, and weathered the Crises by providing acceptable food cheaply (They had to when they faced such stiff competition from the ComCants). Someone transported into the present from twenty years ago would feel reasonably at home there despite the rebranding; but they would be shocked both by today's prices and the reduced variety on the menu. They might also complain about the portion sizes and the quality of the fare they were served. But then they wouldn't have experienced what we went through... When you've been truly hungry and on the verge of destitution even meat substitute is like manna from heaven.
Yes, we know how it is made, or rather grown on an industrial scale; but we also know what naturally reared meat is fed on; even though we're assured that both kinds are fully compliant to the Fed (but not the EU) food regulations. But you should also remember some of the things that people ate back in the pre-Crises times, or during the immediate post-Crises aftermath and the Hard Winter: There were far fewer pets alive to see the next spring. The extreme cold and shortages of pet food must have accounted for some of the fatalities, but by no means all of them...
The Council considered an Animal Registration Act to ensure pet corpses wouldn't find their way into the human food chain, but they gave up on the idea as closing the kennel door long after the dog had vanished; after all meat was meat and people were desperate... As with so many aspects of our recent past it is something which has now been all but erased from our collective memory.
Walking through the Commercial Road pedestrian precinct we pass a Connie dancercise display set up on the boarded over fountain which has now been turned into a public stage. At least ten Connies and a couple of passers-by who've been drawn in are gently swaying, swirling, bending, and stretching on command to some slow-paced, traditional flute, zither, and violin Chinese music swelling from a portable PA system.
Encouraged by a radio-miked leader they complete their routine to a smattering of polite applause from a handful of bystanders. "We'll be having another session in a few moments!" gushes the instructress "Why don't you join in? You'll feel so empowered and good about yourself when you take the responsibility for your health into your own hands! We're running wellness groups everywhere at times to suit you, so take the first steps to a better life today!" Helpers thrust flyers into the hands of anyone who will take them. There are no refusals. Neil and I take them as well so as not to stand out - one of many survival strategies learned during the Transition - then we inconspicuously amble away.
Out of earshot and masked by the urban noise, Neil speaks.
"And that's how it begins... Before they know it those new recruits will be earning extra ComCred for the valuable work they are doing in promoting community health. They won't realise how dependant they're becoming on those so easily earned creds for the necessities of life, and by the time they do - if they do - they'll be hooked on achieving their quota of Good Deeds Done every month. Not to mention those preferential, off-credit food allocations... Do you know local Connie groups are authorised to issue Cred, and that you can earn it by attending their dancerecise classes or awareness meetings?"
"No." I reply. "But then I try to stay as far away from them as possible."
"I can understand that, but it's now the major source of cred inflation;, and the reason there's too much cred in circulation, so its value needs to be readjusted each budget. 'S a vicious circle innit?"
"And there I was thinking I was on top of the news, it's only my job after all! So how did they sneak that one through?"
"Ways and means mate, but they didn't go out of their way to publicise it. It gives them quite a grip on people doesn't it?"
"Bloody right moosh! I'm behind the times, I've been doing Kevin Ford's job as well as my previous role while we were reorganising, so I've had my hands full!"
"Pah! You're spending too much time in your office! You need to beat the street more! You may not see as much of it as we grunts on the Record, but things are starting to turn very creepy out there..."
"Yeah but we don't have your contacts in the CityPol, do we? They won't have anything to do with us; professional media relations only - no unofficial contacts, and they only really engage with us when there's a major incident and they want help."
I hold open the door of the Fair Food for Neil and we enter. We choose an inconspicuous table, sit down, and order a Spuddie Special each; along with a half-litre of the risible 2% imitation beer which is all you can buy without spending ComCred. (4% 'extra strong' beer is available in specially licensed premises, along with reduced-alcohol 10% spirits; both subject to ComCred and Health Tax. For anything stronger you have to see your local spiv or home-brewer.)
"My shout, Rich.' says Neil as he pays in cash. The server accepts it with indifference; the Black Dragon has made people far more wary of cashless systems these days; with good reason.
"Off the grid for a reason?" I ask as our order is conveyed to the kitchen.
"Well you can't be too careful. I doubt if it'd matter, but you don't want to leave too much of a data trail."
"Yeah, I understand."
"And I'd rather not make it too obvious that we'd met; nothing personal of course, but things may be getting a bit sticky at the Record."
"We've not been doing too well; I'm sure you've probably heard; it's hardly a secret. Traffic is down by twelve percent, ViewCred by nine, and I don't think it's going to recover. Since we were taken over by Multicast last year there's been some talk about a reorganisation, and now it would appear it's more than talk. Steve Williamson is thinking about giving it up and going indie. Me, I dunno what I'm going to do. I've been looking around of course, but you know what it's like..."
"Only too well."
"So I wanted to sound you out about what might be available with you."
I ponder. "Well I don't have responsibility for recruitment; all that gets done in London, and you know what James is like for running a lean organisation. But I can probably get you an associate status, though I know that wouldn't be much use to you. And we'd always be interested in any copy you could send us; you know I'd be straight with you on that."
"I don't think you'd want to move to Brighton, and the Hub there won't be ready to stand alone for a while yet, but you could always bear that in mind... What I'm thinking; and I can't promise anything, is you get to see James directly and talk to him. I could set it up; anything I send him gets his attention, not dumped into a 'sist. I think you might want to step sideways a bit and get a post with his new party-"
"What! Me get into politics?"
"That's what I thought when he was trying to tap me up to stand as his candidate here. But think about it;: you've got the local connections, you know the area, you've got a rep for standing up against the Connies: You'd be ideal! And I'd put a word in for you. I think that would count for something. And if you didn't want to stand you could probably get yourself a media relations role with the NRP."
"If it sounds that good the why aren't you going for it?"
"It's not for me! I'd rather lead a quiet life. No doubt he'll push again for me to get involved, and I'll end up doing some support work, but I don't want to stand because frankly, I don't think he's got much of a chance. I reckon the LEZzers are happy enough with the way things are. They've got the Council dependant on their credit, and they get plenty of cheap labour in return. So why upset a mutually beneficial arrangement?"
"Oh, thanks! So get me involved instead!"
"It's not like that! Look, you'd get a position with James for as long as it took; you'd get to know him professionally, and that counts for a lot; and if it didn't work out, you'd still be better placed to get something else in London. You'd have more recent experience than most of the cunts trying to get back in to hang on to the political class. There'd be plenty of posts available that aren't overtly political in the lobbying industry - even now - and they won't hold your past against you. They really don't give a shit just as long as you get the job done. If all else fails you could get into media relations, it'd be as easy as falling off a bike for you. It beats getting drafted into the NRA."
Neil mulls what I say over. "Maybe they've made a mistake with this beer; you're starting to make sense! But I'd rather stay in the media then get too political. Even if they have this election, whoever wins isn't going to change policy that radically, so it may be best to keep well clear. You know what they say; 'No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in!' So they'll be doing much the same as the Council did. I can't see much point in getting involved and making enemies"
"So what's the problem?" I ask. Our conversation pauses as the waitress arrives with our meals.
"The Connies; they're the wild card: Those fuckers are worming their way in everywhere... I can't help but be worried about them because I really think they're going to get out of control; especially now that they've become more of a social movement more independent of the Council. You know they won't take no for an answer, and I'm not sure how they're going to react if things don't go their way. They can turn nasty if they feel threatened, or if they think they're going to lose everything they've built up so far... Word is there's one being sent to us from Multicast central as part of the amalgamation; and you know what happens when you get one of them in your organization; it'll be nothing but supportively happy-clappy good news, voluntarily taking extra PushCreds, and anyone who's unhappy with it can fuck off before they get pushed!"
"So you don't want to hang-on and see what happens?"
"No. The writing's on the wall for the Record. I reckon it'll be merged with SolentCast." He screws up his face, as do I. Even after all the conflict the world has suffered some enmities still endure, such as the bitter rivalry between the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. It's a visceral, reflexive hatred; even though IMS has offices and studios there, and many of my colleagues live in that city, the rancour remains; especially when it comes to rival media companies.
"Besides, I couldn't do that tabloid shit. No, they'll get someone to 'cast it remotely from fucking Bristol or someplace. You know; thinking about it I'd like to meet James if you could arrange it. See where it leads; more irons in the fire and all that. Could you set it up?"
"Of course! But I can't promise anything though."
The conversation stalls while Neil digs into his Spuddie and swigs his watery beer. "Here's to the Emerald Isle!"
"Aye! T'ank the Lord and all His Saints for the Oirish Tattie!" The sentiment is heartfelt. We wouldn't have made it through the Hard Winter without the food imports and aid from the Irish Republic. Oh, we paid for it allright with the annulment of their loans taken out when the UK, as we then were, bailed them out of their financial mess all those years ago. They had us by the balls, and they knew it; but they also knew they didn't dare push for any further political concessions regarding the North as well; being only too aware how that would reignite those long-suppressed tensions. So the uneasy compromise continues; they got what they wanted, and get it still, but without annoying their biggest trading partner too much.
The rest of the EU aren't happy about the Republic cutting a deal with and having such close links with an 'Associate' member, but there's not a lot they can do about it. So we give our Celtic friends sincere thanks for their food exports, their aid, and their intermittent wind power, and don't dwell too closely on how our relative statuses are changing.
I want to change the subject; to try to snap Neil out of his depressive mood: "How's the family?"
"Oh, Kerry's doing alright, there are always people who need their teeth looking after so she's always busy, and Jaden is growing up fast. I'm trying to get him into the Scouts or the Woodcraft Folk to keep him away from the Young Communitarians, but you know how it is; the peer pressure and all that... He'll be changing school soon and I'm at a loss to find one which doesn't have a Connie influence."
"You really do have a thing about them!" I say.
Neil lowers his voice "I really hate the fuckers! Rick, you don't see as much of them in action as I do. I know you find them a pain in the arse but they're much more than that... Oh, and while I think about it, I have something for you."
In a well rehearsed move which won't attract attention we both slide a hand under the table. "This is a back-up of all my files, just in case I get back to find my terminal wiped. The decryption key is already in your darkmail." I pocket it. "And this..." he said, placing another chip in my hand "is something I'd like you to send to James when you talk about me. Think of it as my CV. There's some sensitive stuff that can't be properly confirmed yet, but I'm working on it while I still can. Some of it is readable now; the rest is a timeblurt decrypt if anything happens to me-"
"Aren't you sounding just a bit paranoid?"
"No." He replied, keeping his voice quiet and deadpan. "This could be a story they'd want to bury. I don't think they'd kill me, but they'd certainly make my life a fucking misery if they knew I was onto it"
"Is there anything you can tell me about it?"
"Not yet. It's probably best you don't know. It'll all come out in the timeblurt if I'm prevented from breaking the story; it may come to nothing anyway, but it's always best to cover yourself... Fancy another half-litre of piss? Might as well use our allowance before they ask for a ComCred card, and it's better than that disgusting tea substitute."
"Might as well."
Neil goes to the bar, and while he is there I wonder what I can do to help him. He's obviously stressed, but who isn't these days? Though in all the time I've known him I'd never seen him like this. There are few customers so he is soon back.
"Believe it or not this is bitter! And you will be after drinking it! One day you'll have to come round and have a proper shant; I'll treat you to some of the latest homebrew that's going around. I've got a good man who cares about his rep, won't sell any shit, and isn't too expensive. I hope he lasts at it."
"That's all very well, but don't overdo it. You know how easy it is to let it take over your life."
"I know, and I've got to keep it all together for Kerry and Jaden. Don't worry mate, I'm just under a bit of pressure and stressed out at the moment. I'll get it sorted out one way or the other."
"I'm always around if you need a chat..."
"Thanks! I'll remember... How are things with you by the way?"
"Hectic as ever, not had a shag for far too long! I've more or less given up on Cathy and there's no one at work available or who I fancy!"
"How's your Dad?"
"He's alright, still high and dry in his park home but he's miffed they reclassified his flood risk to high. He's appealing against it, and reckons it's still only a 1-in-125 year risk, and he has the NRA risk map to back him up, but they're claiming it's been superseded by events. I think it's just another one of their tactics to clear the site and dump them in some condensed housing."
"What a cunt!"
"Well he won't move until he's forced to, and he's leading the Residents' Association at the appeal. They'd have to offer him alternative accommodation and some compensation to get him out, and that's not worth their while. So they'll just indulge in a bit of low-level harassment, let the flood defences go a bit more, and hope that the weather does its worst."
"Didn't he have a close call last winter?"
"Yes; but the closest it got was 100 metres away and he was a metre higher. They wanted to evacuate the park but the residents wouldn't go for fear of never being allowed back. He's got a Ready Bag packed just in case."
"I suppose while he stays put he's got the law on his side... Oi Oi, what's all this then?" Neil says quietly while looking at the door as a group of four men, dressed in Connie jumpsuits, enter. They wear security patches and heavy boots rather than flacks. I see no obvious signs of them being armed, and they walk in confidently, rather then with the swagger of a group searching for someone or spoiling for a fight. They pick an empty table not too far from our own and sit down.
"Trouble?" I ask.
"Not sure..." says Neil cautiously. "I don't see any of the high-profile Faces but it's always best to be on your guard..." He pretends to look above them at the muted large screen showing a live BBC 'cast of the latest unseasonable typhoon making landfall in Hong Kong. "No, I don't think so, but we might as well go quietly now". Acting as naturally as possible we finish our drinks and leave. I hear no sounds of them getting up to follow us. We shake hands.
"It's been good to see you again Rich; keep in touch won't you?"
"I will! I'll flick your file on to James, and do what I can to help. Keep your head up!"
"Thanks! I will." He seems almost on the verge of crying. "We'd better get back to work and out of this bloody wind! It's turning nippy again!"
We part, and go our separate ways. The strengthening wind has cleared the precinct; the dancercise group have packed up and gone. Now there are only a few people hurrying for shelter and a masked credder armed only with a broom, long handled scoop, and handcart half-heartedly trying to keep on top of the Sisyphean task of clearing up the windblown dust.
Back in Media House I send Neil's file and a covering note to James, then open the portion he left accessible to me. There are a few possible stories and a lead about a Connie glutton party, along with another worth following about some residents in a local care home whose relatives allege are being forced to knit clothes all day long by their Connie carers with the threat of reduced meal portions if they refuse or don't reach their quota. I've heard about this before, but without some testimony or other substantiation it won't go any further; and no-one is talking; not even the relatives, for fear of reprisals. There's also the latest version of Phantom, a wurdle (they used to be known as programnes or apps) which allows you into many supposedly secure online places, and covers any trace you've been there, as well as getting you a one-way journey to the Fens if you are caught using it. I don't know how he got hold of that, and its better not to know, but I flick it on to Bippin so that he can test it against our systems.
Neil certainly has some contacts. If we can get him on board he'll be very useful. And though he tends to worry more about the Connies than I, he made a good point about the uncertainty regarding how they may react during the election; especially if they thought they risked losing office. They've had things go their way for the best part of a decad. When anyone is entrenched in power for that long arrogance and intolerance of the opposition are bound to become established. So how they'll react to the forthcoming Democratic Reset is anyones' guess. It's a thought that gnaws at the back of my mind for the rest of the day.
Getting home was difficult this evening, thanks to an unwelcome reminder of the past which descended near the bus stops and forced their closure until the panic was over. From which bomb in which war that tiny speck of material was liberated is unknown to us: Apparently radioactive particles can be fingerprinted to discover exactly in which nuclear installation and which year they were created; but with there being so much of it floating free, nobody bothers now.
There was a time, shortly after the Crises and the rushed creation of a RADiation PROtection FORce, when the fallout forecasts were both eagerly watched and apprehensively feared. But as time passed and the shorter-lived radioisotopes decayed to a 'safe' level, people became indurated to the danger; so much so that nowadays the Radiation Quality Index isn't even mentioned on the mainstream media, unless something of this magnitude drops in on us.
It was a credder equipped with a hand-held monitor who first raised the alarm. As soon as that happened the city's specialist RadProFor squad leapt into their hybrid van and swung into action. Once they arrived on scene and in sight of the CCTV cameras, we livecast them in action. At first the fully hazsuited men decided to use their autonomous robot to locate and sweep up the offending few particles: Obediently it did as it was ordered, but when a second, smaller robot was remotely driven across the scene to check that every deadly speck had been removed the readings went off the scale again.
The cleaning robot was sent back for another scrub and vacuum. Again its work was checked; again the detector registered danger levels. After a third attempt to pick up the contaminants failed, a new strategy was tried. While one of the crew strapped-on extra heavy body protection and a tool belt, his colleagues removed a small box on a trolley from the back of the van. The first man, pulling the box behind him, strode quickly out to the approximate spot where the recalcitrant specks had attached themselves to the paving stone.
Using his hand held detector he narrowed the location of the danger down to a few square centimetres; then hurriedly cold chiseled out the offending patch by hand before picking it up with tongs and dumping it inside the lead-lined box. The area was scanned once more, and this time found to be satisfactory. The box was returned to the additionally shielded rear of the van before the crew departed, mission completed.
The incident took little more than ninety minutes to clear, but that was enough to disrupt bus services all over the island, and cause gridlock as well. No-one was heard to grumble about the disruption; it's become such a part of daily life it goes unremarked now. Nor is it likely to be the last time that it happens: This long after the Crises much of the fallout has drifted back to earth but there is still plenty of the lighter weight - but still invisibly lethal - material which remains borne aloft by atmospheric currents. Eventually it will all settle, but it will be a long time yet in coming.
I'm sure some of the slack jawed gawpers looking on with gormless curiosity behind the Keep Out tapes didn't understand the basic facts about radioactivity, despite the years of public information campaigns. They probably watched not realising if their credding over the past years had anything to do with hand brushing the streets, as it often is assigned; the chances are they've inhaled some radioactive dust which has lodged in their lungs and will continue to irradiate them for the rest of their shortened lives.
Sometimes surgical removal of the offending particles is a possibility, but not always. There are masks issued to credders and the general public, but they're next to useless. Sadly, even after all this time the Crises Wars are still slowly, imperceptibly, claiming victims; but few people give a toss any more.
July the 19th.
That didn't take long; but then James doesn't wait around once he's made up his mind. Only yesterday I wished Neil Moore the best of luck in his interview, and this morning I arrive to a massblurt announcing his joining IMS as an editorial consultant. It's a dogsbody of a job title which will allow him to create his own niche within the organisation; most of his time will be taken up researching stories and the rest, increasingly so toward May next year, will be spent campaigning for the NRP.
He'll be based in this office, but as he'll be roaming far and wide he won't be my responsibility, so I've nothing extra to worry about. I'm pleased he was able to jump across to us before - as he correctly predicted - the axe stared to swing at the Record. He was prescient to see what was coming and get out while he could: Sadly, few of us have that option available these days.ns 126.96.36.199da2