tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 92

No Future Ch. 92



Alex was now possessed of an opinion he once believed that he'd never hold. And that somewhat dispiriting opinion was that those women whose company he most enjoyed were those he could never rate as his social equals. A woman like the new Chief Executive Officer, for example, was a real balls-breaker whose greatest talent was to keep Alex and his fellow directors on their toes. Alex still wasn't sure whether their brief relationship together counted as a positive or a negative asset in his executive career. And he didn't really enjoy the company of women who were his intellectual equal. They so often made him feel that he was a fraud for earning so much but achieving so little.

The worst thing about women who were in any sense Alex's equal was that they were also generally much the same age as him. That, as Alex now had to admit, was not an age when women were at their most physically attractive. It also troubled him that just as women of his own age was now no longer his first choice, he'd now become the sort of man who was theirs. No wonder most men who'd got married preferred to stay that way.

So the solution to this dilemma, and an increasingly expensive one, was to rely on the company of women with whom there was no pretence or illusion, most especially regarding relative social or intellectual status, and, best of all, where there was no likelihood of any kind of commitment beyond that of actually paying for her services.

Alex was pretty certain that the naked woman lying beside him on his huge double-bed was never actually christened Opal, but that was the name by which she introduced herself and by which she was listed on the escort agency's website. Alex could easily have chosen Mirabella, Goldie, Ember or Alicia, but today it was once again Opal's turn. She was attractive in a peculiarly non-specific way, although just on the cusp of being dumpy and short. Her main virtue was how reliable she was beneath the sheets and in holding a reassuringly non-threatening conversation on other occasions.

And today, of all days, one thing Alex really did not want was something that might further disturb his composure.

The last few days had been fraught and there was a very real possibility that they could be amongst his last. And not just for Alex, but pretty much for all humanity.

Events in Korea had taken a critical turn. The armed forces massed on North Korea's southern and northern borders were bristling with weaponry that was dramatically more devastating than that usually used in a distant foreign conflict. It wasn't only the two Koreas that had the thermonuclear capacity to reduce the peninsular to radioactive waste. The Americans and their close allies, the Russians, were on one side of the border. While on the other side was the world's wealthiest nation and its most heavily armed nuclear power: the Federal Republic of China.

This could end up being very nasty indeed.

Alex had faith that the warring parties would somehow come to a satisfactory face-saving resolution. After all, international business could suffer even in a stalemate. China had investments in America, Russia and even the UK. There was no country in the world, except perhaps the most unhinged, that had a good word for North Korea. It was a nation that had squandered every penny of its wealth on an preposterously well-armed military and a thoroughly pampered political elite whose quality of life exceeded that of most billionaires even in neighbouring China. It was incredible and anachronistic that the people of North Korea should continue to live in ignorance of the world beyond their borders in an age where the internet was truly ubiquitous and the cheapest mobile phone could store a library of movies that would take a lifetime to view in their entirety.

"What do you think about what's happening in Korea?" Alex asked Opal, expecting (and probably hoping) that she would respond with something crass and ignorant that would somehow justify his objectification of her as appetising sex meat.

"Shall we turn on the TV and find out?" she suggested as she rolled over and clicked on the remote control. She was betraying rather more interest in current affairs than one would normally expect. On a previous occasion she claimed not to know which of Tokyo or Beijing was the capital of Japan. Alex suspected then, and even more now as she listened intently to the academic discussion on Fox News UK, that her show of ignorance was nothing more than an act and that the real woman who Alex would never get to know was somewhat more abreast of international news than Opal the whore who liked to be fucked in the arse and was expert at the messiest kind of blowjob that Alex had ever enjoyed.

It was the on-screen tickertape that broadcast the news Alex was most worried about regarding the continued stand-off. Alex wondered just how long over five million men in arms and a planet's worth of thermonuclear firepower could remain idle on the 38th parallel. It wouldn't take much for the affair to escalate from a skirmish to all-out conflagration. Every report of an island bombed, a battalion defecting and an armed scuffle on the borders made Alex either cheer or despair. And this same uneasiness was even apparent on the faces of the normally self-assured news anchors. And it was fairly apparent on Opal's face as well.

"How far do you think the Chinese will go to protect their ally?" Opal asked, flatteringly implying that this was something on which Alex might be an authority.

He was nothing of the sort of course, but after all the conversations and chats with colleagues and the blow-by-blow accounts provided by television and internet journalists, Alex felt that he'd dedicated enough of his life to have some kind of authoritative opinion. But whatever he might argue, his main concern was that he and everyone else on the planet should still be alive at the end of the week.

"I can't believe anyone in the world, not the Chinese and not even the North Koreans, would be so stupid as to start a World War," he said.

It didn't seem right. The world wasn't ready for conflagration, although Alex wondered whether there would ever be a time when it would be. How ready was the world when the meteor hit Chicxulub 65 million years ago? How ready were the Minoans for their civilisation to be annihilated by a volcanic eruption? Did the people of Poland expect their country to be invaded from both the East and the West in 1945? Perhaps the most devastating events came when people were least ready for them.

It was a cliché of most movies and television programmes that whenever a big event happened there would be bold headlines everywhere with words like War, Chaos and Catastrophe. Everyone would excitedly discuss the news and associated with it there would be a palpable atmosphere of expectation. This was exactly what was happening, but buses and trains were still continuing to run, there was no break in the transmission of situation comedies, soap operas and quiz shows on television, and sports fixtures still dominated the last few pages of the newspapers. The world may be due for extinction within the week, but Arsenal was still due to play against Sheffield Wednesday and a new superhero movie was due to have its premiere in Leicester Square.

Alex was genuinely worried. He'd even phoned up his ex-wife so that he could talk to his six-year old daughter. Even Iris had a vague idea of what was happening at the furthest end of the world, but she seemed to think that after everyone in the world was killed things would just magically get to be all right again. Several work colleagues were absent without leave and there was a real sense that no one any longer cared whether production figures were met or deadlines achieved given that all of that might soon be utterly irrelevant. Every announcement by the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom or, most of all, the President of the Federal Republic of China was listened to with rapt attention. The names of the Presidents of both Koreas were now more familiar to the world than at any time since the mid-twentieth century.

"There's a special announcement from Clooney," said Opal referring to the American President. "It looks like it'll be important. Shall we watch?"

Alex nodded, forgetting for the moment the real nature of the relationship that should exist between Opal and her client. It wasn't for the escort to dictate what the client should do, but Alex no more than Opal wanted to miss an important announcement. He wondered whether he should now be fleeing towards the nearest underground station if the president was just about to declare all-out nuclear war. Although Alex was sure that there was nowhere truly safe from a thermonuclear device even of fairly modest mega-tonnage, there must surely be some level of security on the Northern or Metropolitan Lines. Unless, of course, overground explosions were to cause the tunnels to collapse.

The president's demeanour was stern and commanding. At least this president wasn't the kind of idiot that the Americans were increasingly prone to elect as it adjusted to its diminished relative status in the world with astonishingly poor grace. Alex wondered what kind of mess the standard issue president would leave the world. With their inability to string together coherent sentences and their tendency to make frighteningly inane and foolhardy statements of policy, American presidents had mostly become as much a poor joke in the world as their desperate assertions of America's divine mission became more obviously derisory and self-deluding. On the other hand, Alex wasn't sure that Britain's own rather dull Prime Ministers or the other elected heads of Europe were actually any better.

The president's address spun out the tension for several moments as he stressed the gravity of the international situation, emphasised the seriousness of the threat and praised the endeavours toward peace made by the allies, in particular the presidents of Russia and Brazil.

Come on, come on, thought Alex. Cut to the chase. Are we all going to die?

"I think it's going to be all right," said Opal with a tone of relief in her voice.

"How can you tell?"

"Body language," Opal explained.

"Body language?"

"I'm a Psychology Major," said Opal who for the first time in their many carnal encounters confessed that she wasn't just a fluffy sperm receptacle. "You can tell by the eyes, the breathing, the stress pattern in the sentences... It's all there. He's about to announce that it's all been resolved."

And indeed it was. The sentences rolled out as the president announced the terms by which North Korea had capitulated to the allies' demands and how the Federal Republic of China had made bold steps towards bringing the crisis to a satisfactory conclusion. At the same time there were hints about the breakdown of civil order in North Korea, the substantial level of defections to the south and the brave rebellion by the starved and frightened who didn't really want to serve as gun-fodder for their leaders' manic ambitions. Alex suspected that the real story about North Korea's abrupt and humiliating climbdown from the intransigent position it had taken earlier that morning was rather less to do with a sudden outbreak of sanity and reason and more to do with the final collapse of the world's most insane country.

And so it was over.

World War Three had been averted.

What a relief!

And as he returned his attention to Opal in the hope that they could celebrate the good news together at a special discount rate, Alex reflected on the good news.

If the world could survive this crisis, it could surely survive anything.

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