George Moonbat, investigative journalist, is attending a climate change seminar at Apocalypse Close, the Hampstead home of Green hedge fund manager Tom Huntingdon. He hopes to spend the evening interrogating the mysterious, captivating Miranda about the evidence that she is a police spy, but his plans are foiled by the intrusion of Juno Watt, expert in bovine emissions, in search of a dose of cocoa for her nightcap. Now read on:
Having extricated the metal slug of cocoa powder from the machine, George turned to the problem of extricating Juno from his room. But Juno had already perched herself on the side of the bed and was launching into an account of zoögenic greenhouse gas emissions. “What’s to be done about it?” she wailed, rhetorically.
George resisted the temptation to say “Put a cork in it” and collapsed on the bed beside her, cursing his luck. It was too late to confront Miranda now, even if he managed to get rid of Juno. And too embarrassing. How could he explain?
(“Juno’s an old friend. She just popped by for a chat about …”. Well, what else could she chat about?)
George resigned himself to his fate. It was going to be a long night.
* * *
The next morning George woke late, haggard, but thankfully alone. A faint mooing sound could be heard from the garden below his window. He peeped through the curtains. It was Juno, in a pink leotard, performing Tai Chi on the lawn. George poured himself a coffee and began to prepare himself mentally for the day’s activity.
The whole morning was to be taken up by a private performance of “Ten Billion” a scientific stage happening written and performed by Stephen Emetic, Professor of Universal Omniscience at the University of Microsoft. The show had already been a spectacular rave sellout success in The Room Above the Bar in Sloane Square, a tiny London theatre which only sat a select few. It had had a mixed reception at the Avignon theatre festival in the South of France – the left-wing “Libération” calling it “as inspiring as a meeting of a local communist party cell, circa 1950”, while for “Humanité” it “…had all the fascination of an editorial written by a senile ex-Trotskyist stuck in May ‘68” – high praise indeed from the normally chauvinistic French.
Though only ninety seven people had seen it in Britain, they included the theatre critics and environmental correspondents of all the main newspapers, who were lavish in their praise. There were already plans to turn it into a BBC TV series, a national radio talk in America, and a three part Hollywood sequel to the Lord of the Rings.
The show was a sixty minute exposition of the latest scientific analysis of the state of the universe, based on the most sophisticated mathematical models. The message was that we were screwed, the world was going to end and, in the words of Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, you might as well roll a big joint and kiss your arse goodbye, because we have fucked up, totally.
George entered the little lecture theatre still in a daze, and by great good luck found a seat next to Miranda.
“Did you not see it at the Royal Court?” she gushed. “It was fantastic. When he described how many litres of fuel it takes to fly a banana into Waitrose, the tears were welling up in my eyes, and by the time he got to how much water it takes to make a cherry soufflé, I was positively dripping.”
She changed the subject abruptly. “That Juno, is she.. ?” George hastened to reassure her. “I hardly know her. She just popped in. She was after a dose of my Horlicks.”
“Aren’t we all,” murmured Miranda dreamily. But before George could think of an adequate response, she had turned to the person sitting on her left and was deep in conversation. it was Michael Billington, the Guardian’s theatre critic. He had already seen Professor Emetic’s doomladen discourse twice, and written about it four times with an enthusiasm bordering on the morbid. He’d spent a lifetime reviewing London Theatre. As far as he was concerned, the end of the world couldn’t come soon enough.
The small stage had been laid out as a faithful replica of a scientist’s office. There was the usual bric-à-brac – files, papers, half a rotting Big Mac in its polystyrene box, a couple of paperbacks (a Stephen King novel and “Excel for Dummies”) and a couple of crates of champagne, still unopened.
Professor Emetic shuffled onto the stage, coughed nervously in a dry Yorkshire accent, and began his discourse in the practised Thespian tones of Alan Bennett on his deathbed reciting his mother’s shopping list:
“I am not an actor,” he began, and he paused to let his words sink in, looking round furtively at the audience. He liked to begin with an incontrovertible fact.
“I’m not a public speaker as well”, he continued. “In fact, I’m sort of just an ordinary Professor of Universal Omniscience from the Microsoft University of Cambridge, the Bill and Melissa Gates University of Oxford, and the Powerpoint University of London”.
He paused to let his words sink in. A murmur of admiration could be heard from the audience, and one or two genuflected.
“There are folks who call themselves Rational Optimists – people who think that the sun is going to rise tomorrow; that a giant asteroid is not at this very moment hurtling towards the planet; that we are not suffering the most direst plague of famine drought pestilence mass extinction and hair loss ever known to man or dinosaur.”
“Well,” and he paused to peer meaningfully at his lap top, “I am not one of them.”
“I’m a scientist. In fact, I’m a new kind of scientist, doing a new kind of science, training a team of a whole new breed of scientists doing a whole new breed of science. Microsoft science. When you purchase a software license through a Microsoft Volume Licensing program, the terms and conditions for how you can use the software are defined in the Volume Licensing Product Use Rights document, Product List Document, and Program Agreement. The Product Use Rights document is updated quarterly. Links to the current Product Use Rights Document and an archive of previous Product Use Rights Document Editions are available below.”
He paused for breath, and aimed his remote control at the laptop. A series of icons appeared on the screen behind him – Emmotticons representing birds, flowers, hearts, angels and smileys.
“I’m here to tell you that we’re fucked. Buggered. Shafted.”
There was a gasp of disbelief from the audience, and a few whispered groans of “Praise the Lord!” “Hallellujah” and “Oh, my Jesus”. Steve raised his hand, and the icons behind him morphed into devils, skulls and vampires, just like that brilliant bit in Fantasia. A hush fell over the audience as Emetic picked up an ancient copy of Reader’s Digest, and declaimed in a grave monotone:
“Did you know it takes five hundred litres of water to make a cup of coffee, six thousand litres to make a bar of chocolate, twenty seven thousand litres to make a hamburger, and seventeen days four hours and thirty five minutes to get through to the Apple helpline?”
The audience gasped.
“Did you know that it takes more electricity to make a single Google search than to power an entire hospital in Tanzania? Did you know that more irreplacable rare earth metals go into the manufacture of a single Macbook than exist in the earth’s crust? Did you know that every time Brian Cox tosses his boyish mop, a fairy dies in Upper Volta?
The audience groaned and swayed in their seats. Some rolled on the ground, begging for mercy.
“Did you know that, by clicking on the right hand toolbar, you can locate use rights, points by program, and special notes for individual products and supporting documents related to Volume Licensing, review this scenario-based guide to help you understand how Microsoft licensing models apply to common I.T. solutions, and get activation instructions including which products require a key?”
And so it went on. Point by power point Professor Emetic explained how we were hurtling towards an inevitable hellhole of population growth, mass consumption, ever-increasing gross national product and utter messiness. As he reached his climax, Emetic’s voice rose from a slight mutter to a low drone: “…and millions of climate refugees will be hammering at the gates of Passport Control, rolling their eyes and brandishing their I-phones. And my advice to you is…” and he paused for effect as the stage lights went out…
“… get a gun and shoot the bastards.”
The audience broke into thunderous applause, and George woke up with a start. He looked round, but Miranda had disappeared.