It was a fact that Duff had been made painfully aware of. Several times a week, Holton-Lacey would arrive in his office (or kitchen) with the latest set of unemployment statistics.
'It's just as we predicted,' said the finance minister. 'These people are not getting work anywhere else. In our modelling, we estimated that half would probably be able to get a job in real estate, some perhaps giving financial advice, but even that is not happening.'
Duff was still annoyed with Holton-Lacey — attempted genocide was difficult to forgive.
'I know,' said Duff, still annoyed with Holton-Lacey — attempted genocide was difficult to forgive — but he realised that right now, he needed him more than ever before.
'These people are completely unemployable.'
'That doesn't mean we should kill them,' Duff said quickly.
'No, I know,' said Holton-Lacey, holding his head down like a schoolboy reprimanded for hitting someone, or, in more liberal schools, for smoking cocaine in class rather than waiting for the morning break.
'I do think we need to revisit this idea of a new phone company,' said the prime minister. The more he thought about it, the more he realised there was no alternative. Too many people were on the dole, and, although the apps on their PocketFriend 2000s were keeping them occupied now, he knew the novelty would eventually wear off.
Holton-Lacey seemed excited that his strategy might be resurrected. In his initial plan, the new company would grow slowly, taking on the newly unemployed. Now, with his Redundancy Plan unsuccessful, thanks to Botherington's intervention, the new phone company would have to take on-board everyone retrenched from VastTel. That was millions of people.
'I'd like to see Musson's face when we launch this new company,' said Duff, keen to get back at the new CEO, who, despite his murder record, had been welcomed by the public, many who now held VastTel shares. The staff, those that remained, were pleased, too, because they got to be part of his bold new direction — he had introduced them all to the concept of making money — and the media saw him as an expert in his field. He was often called on by television producers to be a guest on top-rating shows, something that made Duff enormously envious.
'Yes. VastTel will struggle,' agreed Holton-Lacey. 'With all our government money, we can undercut them and take all their customers.'
The men were enjoying the camaraderie they'd had before Holton-Lacey had started killing people or sleeping with Duff's wife.
The two men laughed, enjoying the sort of camaraderie they'd enjoyed early in their working career, well before Holton-Lacey had started killing people or sleeping with Duff's wife — or, at least, before Duff got wind of it.
'We can sell the idea to the public as a bold new venture,' said the finance minister, pleased to have a big, new project to work on. 'Faster internet to every household.'
'Faster internet?' said Willis, his curiosity aroused. 'What exactly does that mean?'
Holton-Lacey hadn't really thought through the detail. All he knew was that many more people were using the internet, and around the world it seemed to be quite popular to make it go faster. Duff was worried if you made the internet too fast, then the people writing it wouldn't be able to keep up.
Days later, Holton-Lacey was out selling the concept to the people, hoping to get the support of the real leader of the nation, shock jock Adam Willis.
'How will you make the internet faster?' Willis asked.
'Good question,' said Holton-Lacey, ready to step into a territory he knew nothing about. 'It's all to do with the text, Adam. We are going to make the words shorter and use a much smaller typeface...'
'Good idea,' said Willis, and all of a sudden the population started to warm to the idea that a brighter telecommunications future lay ahead. Their phones might not be working now, but if they can hung on for eight to 10 years, they would all be functioning better than ever before, and words would be faster, too.
'People will be able to read a book in less than 15 seconds.'
'Excellent,' said Willis. 'I've always found books so tedious.' He knew his audience would be with him on that.
The plan was fitting neatly together. There was only one piece of the jigsaw left, and they would quickly see to that.