Woman seeks man in looking-glass world...
But, for Jill Hately, getting one isn’t so easy. She has almost everything else a beautiful young woman could want: an apartment overlooking the river, a cottage in the country, a trabbie, and an MX222. And yet she feels strangely un-fulfilled. When she happens upon an old journal dating from 2017, a diary that belonged to one of her ancestors, an illegal document that her mother should have handed in to be destroyed, she immediately realizes what is missing from her life. But this is 2089, and these days most men spend their non-working hours in the largely derelict tunnels underneath the city, and relationships between the sexes are discouraged, indeed, are almost banned. Nonetheless, Jill finds a way to get herself a man and, despite strong opposition from the Minister of Wants, John is brought up to the surface.
John moves in with Jill, and Jill feels her life has taken on a new dimension in a world in which lurks the evil Doctor Visser, and the sadistic chief of police. They begin to live the kind of life she has read about, the kind of life she prefers. But then John and she make an horrific discovery, a discovery that leads to them being torn apart, a discovery that leads them to an astonishing find, and an event that changes Jill from a servant of the state to one of it’s greatest enemies....
A policewoman stepped forward and signalled pedestrians not to cross the road. Jill Hately, along with three other women, obeyed her directions and waited on the sidewalk. The traffic had stopped, Jill noted, although on the other side of the road, a work party of seven orange jump-suited males, accompanied by an armed guard, continued to sweep the gutter in front of the government buildings. Jill and the others waited. Then the reason for being stopped came into view. Two police riders on powerful Chinese-made motorcycles, girls wearing the latest mauve uniforms of the Metropolitan Police, preceded a large black limousine, and two more motorcyclists brought up the rear. As the big car went past, Jill peered at the rear windows of the limousine trying to figure out who was in the vehicle, but the windows were darkened and she could not see.
The policewoman lowered her arm and stepped to one side, but now the traffic the VIP’s car had held up had started passing by. About a dozen trabbies, each of them pulling their funny little trailers, made crossing the road temporarily impossible. Jill and the others waited. The traffic thinned and they walked forward towards her destination on the other side of Whitehall: the Ministry of Wants.
She studied the place thoughtfully as she approached it. She’d heard a lot about it, but had never been invited to it before. It was the place where dreams were made real, she’d been told; the place every woman wanted to be called to. Every woman’s wish is our command, this ministry claimed, and now it was Jill’s turn to command. Her heart beat a little faster as she approached the building. She stepped onto the pavement and threaded her way through some pedestrians. Then she went up the steps, through the open double doors, and into the foyer.
All visitors please report here! a sign above a large desk said. Jill walked over to the desk. The girl sitting behind it looked up and smiled. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“I have come to collect my honour,” Jill said, looking down at the receptionist. The girl, about twenty years of age, with the short hair and spectacles that most young government juniors seemed to sport these days, smiled once more. “Oh, you’re on the summer honours list are you?”
“Yes,” Jill said, proudly.
“Do you have your appointment card?” the girl asked.
Jill already had it in her hand. She handed the card to the girl who studied it and then consulted her computer screen.
“Jill Hately,” she said, more or less to herself. “Ah, yes. Your appointment is at ten.”
“And you’re just two minutes late.”
“I was held up by the police,” Jill said. “They stopped the traffic and also stopped me crossing.”
“Very well. No problem.” The girl handed the card back to Jill. “If you take the lift up to the first floor, you’ll see directions to the minister’s office. Please follow the directions and report to her secretary. The minister will probably see you right away.”
“Thanks,” Jill said, turning and heading for the lift.
She entered and pressed for the first floor. The lift door closed and she felt the car ascend. The doors of the car were mirrored, perhaps to allow visitors to check their appearance before they met the minister, Jill thought. Or, perhaps not. Anyway, the young woman who looked back at Jill was a young looking thirty-one year old, five-foot nine-inch blonde, who was slim and immaculate in the latest fashions. London born, Oxford educated, with a degree in English, she had worked for private industry until her present job. Moments later, the door opened and Jill found herself facing a sign on the opposite wall of the corridor. The Minister of Wants, the sign read. An arrow pointed to the left. Jill turned and followed the arrow, passing one girl carrying a sheaf of papers and another carrying a coffee cup. She came to an open door. The Minster of Wants, a sign on the door read. Jill went in. To one side was a settee, at the other a large desk occupied by a girl who might have been a twin of the girl at the desk in the foyer. Jill went to her, card in hand, holding it out. “I have an appointment with the minister,” she said.
This girl seemed much less welcoming than the girl down below. “Ms Hately,” she said, glumly taking the card and studying it. She handed the card back to Jill. “Yes, the minister will see you in a moment. Please sit down.”
Jill walked to the large leather settee at the side of the room and sat down and looked around. The walls were decorated with