It had been two decades since any London commuter had seen the sun rise. An evil spectrum dominated the sky, emanating blackness to, at best, light grey. The sky over Oxford Street was like solid pitch, leading the borough to decide on permanent streetlights. They shone on forgotten shop windows, highlighting their flaking gloss paint and signs that were missing letters.
As the tarmac pavements splintered, they were replaced with jutted cobbles that caused the little ones to trip—those born there but not yet old enough to be fully-fledged Londoners. A street-sweeper nestled into his coat to try and escape the bitter wind, before sweeping the micro-particles of dust off the pavement. A gust of wind blew, scattering them back over the cobbles. He sighed deeply, picked up his wheelbarrow and trudged away, past the tube station entrance where he was swept up in a crowd of commuters. A petite woman with a determined walk strode past him, headphones in her ears. She zig-zagged through the crowd, cropped head bobbing towards a giant building that towered above the skyline like an enormous shredded-wheat.
Its dirty stone framework had multiple angles that contained multiple windows. As the woman got nearer she could see the thin film of dust that covered each pane of glass. She flashed her security pass at the doorman, pointless as she was known to everyone. Force of habit.
Compared to the outside, the inside of the building was clean and clinical. Stark white walls were brightened by a dozen dazzling spotlights in the ceiling. Sitting behind the large wooden reception desk was a girl, barely out of college, chatting on a headset.
"Yeah, I know. Well, he texted me earlier asking if I wanted to go out for dinner with him tonight," she paused. "Oh, I said I was busy. I'm just not sure about him, you know?"
"Umm, excuse me," the woman said, her voice tinged with annoyance. "Has any post arrived for me this morning?"
The girl put her hand over the microphone on her headset.
"I'm sorry, I'll just check." She swiveled her chair around and picked out the post from the pigeon-hole behind her marked Trillian Gibson-Pickett. "There you go."
"Thank you." Trillian walked to the lift, jabbing the button. The wait was filled by more gossip. When the doors finally opened, Trillian stepped inside and pressed the button for floor 42.
A tinny muzak version of "Brown Eyed Girl" thrummed out from the speakers. Trillian swayed in time while watching the red LED numbers click up slowly. Too slowly. She looked around at the fake wood paneling, mottled mahogany to try and give the appearance of luxury. It fooled no one. She looked back at the burnished silver buttons, the red emergency stop button that looked so alluring. The glorious red lettering aching to be pressed. The doors opened. Trillian regained her composure and stepped out.
She strode to her desk, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine strides. She sat down, back straight, and tidied the papers on her desk. She aligned the stapler and her pens, switched on her iMac and while she was waiting for it to start up, flicked through the FT with a cup of tea from her thermos. It was how she always started her day and everyone knew not to bother her.
Trillian put her paper down then flicked through Reuters' main webpage; it was full of the same old stories. Economists worrying inflation could rise to 8 percent within the next two years, the Bank of England announcing that they were pumping an extra £100 billion into their quantitative easing plan to boost the economy. What was unusual was an interview with the governor of the Bank of England. And it was Jean Williams that had spoken to him—it would be no-holds-barred.
David Lewis had only been in the job for five months, after his predecessor received a vote of no confidence. The extra £100 billion into the economy was the third such announcement since he got the job, meaning that he had already exceeded the amount any previous governor had pumped in. Every day there was some piece of news or gossip about the Etonian, ranging from analysing his behaviour during his speeches to allegations about his private life. It bored her. But this was different. This was an actual interview, not conjecture.
"I know this latest announcement sounds like a drastic measure but I believe that this is the final step we will need to rescue our economy. I'm positive that this is the last stage of our quantitative easing program," Lewis said.
"But haven't we heard this before, Mr. Lewis? Weren't you confident that the last amount of £275 billion was the end of the quantitative easing program?"
"That was the original idea, yes, but as you know things rarely go to plan. The problems in the Eurozone and Britain having its debt rating downgraded from AAA caused us to get involved, buying assets from the private sector. Although the interest rate has risen from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent in the last year, this still isn't quite high enough. The Monetary Policy Committee believes that this extra £100 billion will push interest rates back over 1 percent, which is the best we can reasonably hope for at this time."
"But, Mr. Lewis, the point still stands. So far £675 billion has been pumped into our economy to raise the rate of interest by just 0.4 percent. How do you think another £100 billion will increase it by that same amount?"
"Because, Ms. Williams, the economy is already on its way up. This extra money is just the little shove it needs to get back on track."
Trillian stopped the clip and turned to the 59 new emails she had received overnight. Several were flagged as important. The first was from one of her contacts with a hint of companies that were close to being bailed out. How reliable this information was Trillian couldn't be sure. Her contact was extremely secretive about where he got his information from. She quickly noted them down in shorthand on an orange post-it note that she kept stuck behind her monitor. Her boss would want to see this.
She turned to her other emails. Quite a few were spam—a jewelers promoting a half-price sale, an offer of a free computer for clicking on the link in the email. There were also inter-departmental emails about various meetings and project ideas. Trillian skimmed through, noting down the dates in her organiser in green pen. An hour in and she could finally settle down to do some work. After another cup of tea.