"He was found dead in a field, Lynton. What did you do?"
Theresa Willow paced around her husband in the lounge. Behind her sat a shelf crammed with books, DVDs, and VHS tapes. While Number 10 Downing Street was known as the home of the Prime Minister, most of its space was dedicated to administrative offices. There was a smaller living area - more or less an apartment - that the Prime Minister and his family actually used for personal purposes. Even that was often turned into an impromptu office; countless meetings had taken place around the kitchen table.
But this was an entirely different kind of discussion.
"I did not kill that man," Lynton said.
"No, of course you didn't," Theresa said, "but you can't tell me that your actions had nothing to do with it. They found him in a field, having apparently committed suicide, but we both know what that looks like."
Theresa was a human rights barrister; she had seen many killings to cover up inconvenient facts, both in far-away countries and at home. She knew that his death was mostly optics: the newspaper-reading public at home would take it as a suicide, while anyone else seeking to leak information would take it as a warning.
And Dr Smith had leaked some important information.
"I did not order him to be killed. I didn't know he would be killed. And frankly, it could very well be a real suicide."
"That's absolute rubbish, Lynton, and you know it. I believe you that you didn't order him to be killed. You're not a despot. You would never do such a thing. But I also think you know that you've aligned yourself with some people who absolutely would do such a thing if it brought them closer to their goals. The fact of the matter is that he spoke to the press, he let them know that the information that precepted the invasion was faulty, and very shortly after his identity was released, he was found dead in a field. At the very least, if you want your hands to be clean of all of this, you must investigate. You don't have any choice."
"Of course I plan on investigating his death," Lynton said.
"Planning to do something and actually having those plans carried out faithfully are two different things, as you're well discovering," Theresa said.
"Who in their right mind wouldn't want this mess to be cleared up?"
"What deal did you make to get here to begin with? Remember, we wouldn't be standing here, in this room, in this building, if you hadn't agreed to take on certain backers. And I'm beginning to think you made a deal with the devil, Lynton, I really am."
"I made a deal with the interests of the British people at heart," Lynton said, his voice finally raised now. "I have worked so hard to get here, but I wouldn't have made it - couldn't have made it - without their backing because I'm not part of the inner circle. And we were facing ruin. Certain ruin. Because our party was about to make decisions that would have pitted half the world against us. We may be proud, but this is a small island, Theresa. Our economy is large, but it's not insurmountably so. There are bigger countries that could blow us out on a whim."
"So you decided that you'd align yourself with people who don't mind killing a man - don't mind destroying the world and risking everybody's lives - if it means they get to maintain their profits." Theresa stopped pacing and looked him in the eye. "You said you could work with them to find mutually acceptable solutions to the problem, but I don't think you can, can you? There are no solutions that are acceptable to them."
"I didn't think it would be as big of a problem as it's become," Lynton admitted.
"It's not just opinion anymore. All the science points to it, Lynton. The world will burn. That's not hyperbole. It's not just some abstract environmental issue - most of the species on earth will die. And in turn, eventually, so will most of the people. If you care about people, if you claim to truly be a humanist, then you surely have to care about that. It's a human issue; it's a social justice issue; it's an issue that concerns the fate of every single person. That's not something you can make deals about. It's something that we have to deal with, surely and directly."
"The trouble is," Lynton said, "it's all about making deals. Everything comes down to who can make the best deal. It's all economics. All of it."
"Lynton," Theresa said. "You've allied yourself with the richest people on earth. They're beyond nations, beyond structures of governments, and beyond the law. Every war we've fought since we defeated the Nazis; every major business deal; every major policy change has had their fingerprints somewhere in it. It's not too late for you to make a choice: reverse this trajectory and do what's actually right for the people you claim to serve, or continue down this path and admit that you're in service of profit over the well-being of anyone who isn't in their inner circle.
"Which will it be? Because they want one thing, and one thing only: to continue pulling fuel from the ground, and to continue making themselves rich at the expense of all of us."
Brad and Cris sat on the swings in the park outside their office. Every major venture capital firm in San Francisco had some kind of office that backed onto this stretch of grass, and while you could sometimes see children here, it was mostly people doing deals and taking their business meetings outside. For Brad and Cris, it presented an opportunity to recover.
"So Jack's kind of an asshole," Cris offered.
"No shit," Brad said. "I knew he'd be tough, but he just ran roughshod over everything I've tried to build for the last six years."
"I don't understand how you didn't know who the partners were."
"I mean, they described it to me in detail - I did know. But they're shell companies. It's one thing to have a written description of all these corporate entities and high net worth individuals who have a stake in the fund. It's another thing completely to know who those companies are fronts for, and where those high net worth individuals got their money from. To have it laid out like that - that's not something you would ever see in a deck or a corporate document. It's just something you have to know. And I didn't know."
"It's a setup," Cris said.
Brad nodded. "The whole thing. I don't know how far this goes, but all of these amazing high technology companies are just a means to an end for them. We talk about making the future in Silicon Valley, and they took it seriously. They're not about making a future that's more democratic and open and equal. They want to use technology to create a society of more perfect consumers, where everyone is in line with their objectives. It's fascism through data. And if they're so deeply into venture capital -"
"- who knows what else they're into?" Cris said, finishing Brad's sentence.
Cris looked at the park. Endless dudes in black zip-up hoodies, with identical haircuts. The only difference was the logos, stitched in white, just above the heart. Each person seemed to come from a different startup, which on paper should have been a completely different business with a different culture, a different mission, and a different set of goals and ideals, but in practice, they were all taking money from the same people, and all sitting in the same park. It was a monoculture, in service to the same benefactors.
"What do we do now?" Brad said.
"I don't know why you're asking me that," Cris said. "You're the boss."
"I got us into this. I think I've destroyed my business by aligning myself with these people. I just didn't know what I was getting into. I'm not sure I'm qualified to say what we should do next."
"I don't think you've destroyed your business at all," Cris said. "By aligning yourself with them, you've aligned yourself with their profits and their objectives. If profit is what you care about, then you're going to make a lot of profit. From a pure business perspective, you should be happy. You're going to be rich."
Brad smiled sadly.
Cris nodded. "I know. That's not all you care about. It's not what I care about, either. I don't think it's all that anyone with a pulse cares about."
"I think we have a choice," Brad said.
"I think we have lots of choices. Which one in particular are you thinking of?"
"We could walk away now," Brad said. "We could. We've signed away the brand to them, but we don't need to be present ourselves. We wouldn't make any money, but we could walk out with our heads held high - but we could never speak of this again. The agreements we've signed mean we're bound to protect the confidentiality of their partners. We couldn't tell anyone. And honestly, we wouldn't have anything to tell, because we don't have any details, really. Just the due diligence documents I was given when we signed the deal, which it's become painfully apparent don't go anywhere near far enough, and everything we learned in that meeting, which is still just generalities."
"Or we could stick around. We could continue to work with them, and learn more. Yes, we would probably further their objectives, at least to a certain extent. But we could gather enough information so that if something really underhand really is going on, we could pass it to someone who could make it public. We could be whistleblowers if we needed to be."
"But we would have to go along with it for now."
"That's quite some choice, Brad," Cris said, squinting at the park and the sun and all the people in their hoodies and hundred dollar haircuts who didn't know how much their lives were under threat - or how complicit they were.