'Look at them out there, Kipple,' he said. Glancing at his new personal assistant's reflection in the giant window, Greengrass thought, again, that Kipple's naïve but keen-to-impress act clearly fingered him as a Home Office spy. Pathetic. Their distrust would be better focussed on the people out there. After all, they had put him, Anthony Greengrass (Tony Greenergrass to his friends and voters) in charge of the country. He credited this achievement to a Dumas-inspired sound bite – All for one and one for all – watched (and heard) by fifteen million people the week before the election. Back me and I will back you. Simple, effective, and bullshit. 'Look at them,' he continued, 'out there in their thousands – in their tens of thousands. Did you know people once believed the car represented the phallus? Ha! I say it's something more fundamental than that.'
His assistant coughed. 'Excuse me, sir?'
'Spermatozoa.' Greengrass pointed outside. 'That's what those things are. Every single one of them. Spermatozoa containing angry little nuclei. And they're all blindly hunting the egg.'
'The egg, sir?'
'It only takes one, but my god if they all had the same idea at the same time we'd be done for, Kipple.' Greengrass turned to his assistant. 'The egg is aberrant thought. Free will. Call it what you like. All leads to the same thing: revolution.'
'Prime Minister, surely you don't believe the common conveyance will lead to an insurrection?'
'Only with all my heart, Kipple,' the Prime Minister said. 'And don't think I'm the first leader to think so either. But I will be the first to quash it, I promise that.
'There is a rage in people, a rage they suppress until they seat themselves behind the controls of their conveyance. It lies below the surface, waiting for something to trigger it, and them, off. Until they lose control. And what is the one thing they want then, hmm? To seize control back and hurt those who took it from them in the first place. Blame God, you're a blasphemer. Blame your mother, you're a sociopath. Blame the government though, Kipple, and you're merely a voice of dissent. We're an easy target. The way I see it, more traffic means more rage and more rage incidents. More rage incidents means more dissent. More dissent, more chance someone will act to change the status quo. You see where I'm going with this, don't you?'
'How do you propose to stop this, sir?'
'Simple,' the Prime Minister said, turning his back on the city. A huge billboard drifted through the speeding traffic two hundred feet behind him, positional thrusters firing every so often to maintain its preset route through the city. It advertised a smorgasbord of government-approved anti-depressants (MAOIs, SSRIs, SNRIs, BRRIs, etc.) right alongside sugar-free carbonated drinks with which one might want to wash them down. 'Public transport,' stated Greengrass. 'Get them on the buses. Get them on the trains. We'll raise the cost of fuel so the common man can't afford to run his air-car. Keep them together and malleable. That's the key.'
Kipple slackened his tie and then rubbed the back of his neck. 'Prime Minister, isn't it folly to bring people together? To prevent insurrection we must place a wedge between them and drive them apart, yes?'
'Any suggestion how?' Greengrass was unable to contain a smile. He could have Kipple eating out of his hand in less than a week – if he wanted it that way. Perhaps he would prove useful as a double agent. But Greengrass worked alone, trusting no one.
'Promote competitive lifestyles,' Kipple answered. 'Reward individual achievement. Keep them busy fighting among themselves. But we mustn't put them together on buses . . . sir.'
'It is a common misconception,' Greengrass began, 'but revolutions are invariably started by individuals, not groups. One man – or woman, let's not rule them out, hmm? – gets an idea in his or her head, becomes angry and passionate about it, and then it snowballs from there. Prime example: Adolf Hitler. Besides, have you ever been on a bus, Kipple? Ever seen the faces of its passengers? Slack. Empty. Docile. That's the way forward for New Britain.' Greengrass watched Kipple rub the back of his neck again before he continued.
'But put someone inside an air-car and it changes them, the way they think and behave. It coils them tight like a spring. It gives them ideas. Then all it takes is that one spark, say, someone cutting you off and there it is, the rage breaking through the surface. And that, that, Kipple, is what gives rise to dogmatism. We don't want them having ideas. We don't want them believing they're right about such and such. So I repeat: get them on buses, get them on trains. It's why they voted to put me in this office – to change things for the better, right?'
'It will be an unpopular move, Prime Minister.'
Greengrass shrugged. 'Making things better doesn't necessarily make you popular.'
'I meant not just with the voters, sir . . .'
'Godsakes, take your testicles out of the Home Office's grip and think for yourself.' Kipple flinched. Greengrass bit down on his anger. His psychiatrists were wrong: the world was full of spies. 'The intelligence of any crowd,' he pressed on, regardless, 'is well known to reduce in inverse proportion to the numbers that make up said crowd. In other words, Kipple, people, like bananas, are stupid in bunches. Elections do not work. History has proved that. Six million dead Jews proved that. But it is the nature of the political animal, and until such time as it is not we have no choice but to live and work in the same cage.'
Kipple looked horrified. 'Is that your intention, sir? To abolish elections? How will we choose new leaders? You'll create a dictatorship . . . you'll . . .'
Prime Minister Greengrass walked over and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. 'Easy. Easy. One thing at a time, Kipple. One thing at a time. I think we are done here for today. Thank you for lending an ear. It helps. Don't be late tomorrow, although I understand you have to make your report. Unfortunate that. Remember to state clearly what it was I said: revolutions are started by rebellious groups.'
'I don't know what you mean about a report, sir . . . Besides, didn't you say they were started by individuals?'
Greengrass winked at him and said, 'Run along, Kipple.'
He left the office practically skipping. Greengrass felt a pang of sympathy for him. Just another H.O. puppet, he thought. 'Probably voted for me too,' he said, and laughed. They'd tried before and they'd try again. Usually, he saw to it that they were fired or transferred to another department, but Kipple was different. Greengrass had actually enjoyed having him around. He didn't just listen;, he had opinions. And now the kid had something to give the string-pullers back at the Home Office, perhaps enough to cut him free, perhaps only enough to entangle him further.
Greengrass went over to the window and looked out once more on New London. His New London. Tomorrow the fuel costs would double. In a day or two, when he gazed from this window, his view of the city would be that much less obstructed, that much clearer. But change could only result from tough, unpopular decisions, and today he had made the first of many.
He left his office and took the hi-speed lift down to the conveyance hangar on one hundred, where his air-car awaited, not in its usual reserved space but in one he had chosen at random. Crossing the brightly lit hangar, the politician inside him basked in the sound of the tapping of his shoes – and only his shoes – across the concrete. He restrained himself from breaking into a dancing run. He reached his conveyance, got inside, and started its engines. He sat and waited a while. And then, at an altitude of two feet, he backed out of the space—
— directly into the path of another air-car.
A screech and hiss of brakes.
Inside Greengrass's conveyance, proximity sensors bleeped wildly. His nearside view screen was flooded with blinding white, illuminating the interior. The other conveyance's headlights blazed into the tiny wing-mounted camera, less than a foot away.
'Son of a bitch blindsided me,' Greengrass said. 'Well isn't this his unlucky day?'
He reached inside the glove box. Fumbling around, he eventually found what he was looking for: his gun. A cautionary measure. He had never had to use it before, but you never knew what kind of lunatic was sitting behind the controls of the other conveyance. You never knew.
He opened his door, stepped out, and walked towards Kipple's air-car.