Chapter 5

Managerial Attention

A confrontation was taking place in an office overlooking the platforms at Euston Station.

Do you have the slightest idea how much trouble you have caused, Lewis?” Bernard Lewis stood in his supervisor’s office, looking sheepish as she harangued him. She was sitting behind her desk, waving a wad of papers at him. “Confusion over the Sunrise demonstrations, unauthorized absence, broken curfew, two police officers to bring you back, absence from your lodgings. Do you want me to go on?”

No, Ma’am,” Bernard responded as respectfully as he could. She had evidently had a stressful day. It was clear that she would need little excuse to take out her frustrations on Bernard.

His supervisor was a bulky woman. The weather had been hot and Bernard couldn’t avoid noticing the sweat stains spreading out under the armpits of her blouse. A half-eaten pork pie sat on a plate on her desk. Knowing her enthusiasm for food, Bernard guessed that its unfinished state was the most eloquent evidence possible of a day disturbed by events and activities not of her choosing. The way that her ankles seemed to swell over the edge of her shoes, as if only the strength of her stockings prevented the ankles bursting out to twice their size, told of a day in which she had failed to even sit down for long. She hadn’t even managed to find time to take advantage of one of the station staff to take on the role of her footstool.

The stifling atmosphere in the room was hardly alleviated by the sulky creaking of a fan, moving slowly, over-head. Across his supervisor’s shoulder, Bernard could look down at the station with the first of the evening’s commuter trains starting to leave. The women would be all right in their air-conditioned carriages, Bernard thought, but the men having to travel in coaches that were little more than cattle trucks would be finding the conditions oppressive. Bernard was starting to wonder if he would end up having to look for a job that meant he would be travelling like that.

Good. Well, it seems that in spite of all the problems, we are not going to sack you.”

Bernard’s relief was immediate. Losing his job right now would be a disaster, he thought. There were few sponsorships available for someone of his age and the life of an un-sponsored male was an even more depressing prospect than being in service as he was.

No, we’re not going to sack you, but we are going to transfer you. It seems you made some sort of impression on Madame Chao. She’s asked for you to be assigned to one of the Sunrise projects. Quite frankly, I can’t see any reason to keep you here, can you?”

In spite of the fact that he was very disturbed by the idea, Bernard could not think of any reasons that his supervisor was likely to think relevant.

There was a knock at the door. Ordered to enter, another male came in carrying a tray with a single mug of tea and a plate piled high with biscuits. The newcomer gave Bernard a sympathetic look as he put the tray down but said nothing. He obviously knew what was going on. Bernard’s supervisor waved him away and then fell on the plate of biscuits with the enthusiasm of a vulture on a newly dead corpse.

Bernard stood, waiting to be dismissed.

The only trouble is,” Bernard’s supervisor got to her feet, biscuit crumbs spilling from her lips. She closed in on him., “I had high hopes for you. I thought we might get on so well. That you might move up from working on the platform to being more helpful around the office.” As she spoke, she gripped Bernard by the scruff of his neck and dragged him forward, pulling his face into the strained cotton stretched across her gorge-like cleavage.

Bernard struggled to breathe as his head was clamped between his supervisor’s substantial breasts. The woman, appreciating the sensation of his head clamped against her, grunted pleasurably, spraying biscuit crumbs across the back of his neck.

But we can still have a little fun before you go, I think.” Bernard was surprised by the way in which in spite of her bulk she seemed able to move so easily, swinging him from his cleavage suffocation to being clamped under her arm, the smell of her sweat-drenched armpit full in his nostrils, as she wrestled him down to the floor. “Or, don’t you want to play?”

He had no opportunity to object. With Bernard forced down on his back, his supervisor slid her ample buttocks, barely contained by her seat-polished, seam-stretched skirt, down on his face. She gave a contented sigh. Whether this was because of the pleasurable sensation of a man’s face pressed beneath her, or because of the satisfaction derived from another male conquest, or simply from the relief of taking the weight from her swollen ankles, Bernard couldn’t have said, even if his mouth hadn’t been clamped shut by the woman’s weight on his face.

Bernard had almost asphyxiated by the time he heard words that he would never have imagined would represent deliverance. “You have round-eye ready? Madame Chao insist that he come now!”

Oxygen rushed into his lungs as his face was freed; his supervisor’s arse moved off him with the inevitable slowness of the end of an eclipse. He gasped to recover his breath and then looked around to see Tsai Linn, smart in her Sunrise uniform, smiling down at him.

Pink-face round-eye, you close your mouth and come with me,” she ordered.

Bernard certainly didn’t feel able to object. Quite the reverse, he was grateful to escape from the attentions of his supervisor.

Parked at the front of the station was an ornately decorated rickshaw. They weren’t common in London but the Chinese Trade Delegation used them as a matter of course. Tsai Linn pointed to it as she and Bernard emerged from the booking hall. “Madam Chao’s!”

Another male stood holding the shafts of the rickshaw. The man was clad in a leather suit that strapped his arms to his sides, was wearing a leather hood with blinkers that meant he could only see directly ahead of himself, and was silenced by a thick rubber bar locked across his mouth as a bit; clearly, he had been left waiting.

You get in!” Tsai Linn ordered Bernard, pulling open the door of the rickshaw. Inside, Madam Chao was dressed exactly as she had been when Bernard had first encountered her: pencil skirt, v- necked sweater, and broad, studded leather belt. Her black leather skirt contrasted with the bright red leather of the rickshaw’s seat, her leather jacket stark against the stuffed satin of the seat back.

Madam Chao barely looked at Bernard as Tsai Linn pushed him inside to crouch at Madam Chao’s feet. “Fix up mule,” Madam Chao said to Tsai Linn. “Minister and I go back to Gerard Street.” For Bernard, the only acknowledgement of his presence was a dig in the ribs from a spiked heel as Madam Chao reminded him to keep still.

Sorry to keep you waiting. Good of you to give me a lift. I’ve no idea what’s happened to my car.” Bernard recognised the voice of Daphne Takely, the Foreign Office Minister for the New Order Government. She had introduced the Demonstration Programme at the station when he had first got caught up with the Sunrise crew. As she climbed in to the rickshaw, her own heels dug into Bernard’s side.

We have time, Minister,” Madame Chao responded. “No difficulty. Not far and rickshaw is rapid transit in city like this. I have to go to office but then you take rickshaw to Westminster.” Tsai Linn had finished strapping the rickshaw’s slave-mule in place between the shafts. “Mule!” Madam Chao barked. “Gerard Street. Move fast!” The slave-mule, encouraged by a crack on the back of his legs from Tsai Linn’s bamboo cane, set off, leaving her standing by the side of the road. Bernard, subdued under the feet of the two women, curled up on the rickshaw’s floor and kept still and quiet as the rickshaw was pulled through the streets.

Although the rickshaw rattled as it progressed over the streets, he could still hear the conversation between Madam Chao and the Minister.

While we are on our journey, Minister, I wanted you to have this.” Madame Chao spoke quietly as the rickshaw headed towards Soho. “Just a small token of appreciation for all you have done in helping to get Sunrise established here in UK. The quick granting of multiple-sponsorship licenses was a great help. I realise foreign companies may not always get such good treatment.”

Madam Chao, really,” Daphne’s voice chided. “You know I cannot accept gifts; it would be most inappropriate. It could even be thought of as bribery. Oh, such a lovely object.”

Please – no insult is implied. This is of sentimental value to me. You see what it is.”

Bernard could see nothing from his position except the dusty floorboards of the rickshaw as it was pulled through the streets. The rickshaw came to a halt as the man pulling it seemed uncertain of the best route to take. “Down Bond Street, fool,” Bernard heard Madam Chao snap to the mule and the rickshaw set off again.

It’s beautifully carved. Some hardwood. Ebony?”

Yes, from late Qing Dynasty, belonged to Empress Dowager Cixi. They say she used it as personal amusement.”

Oh, good heavens. I have just realised what it is! It’s a dildo. It’s carved in the shape of a male member and the top is the head of a male slave. It must be a valuable antique. Madam Chao, it would be very difficult for me to accept this. Perhaps you do not know, but the New Order Government looks down on anything that promotes penetrative sex. It would be very difficult for me to accept this,” she repeated, turning the smooth wooden object over carefully in her hands. “But it is a delightful object.”

Daphne’s wistful tone told Bernard that, somehow, she might be persuaded to accept the gift.

I understand,” Madame Chao responded, “but, please, it would upset me for you to refuse and so much has been done to set good relations between your country and mine. Let this be a personal gift. Its value is of no matter.”

A personal gift? Well then, I accept.”

Here, this silk bag is to keep it in. The embroidery is even earlier, possibly Yongzheng.”

Extraordinary. What does it say?”

These characters here? Ah yes! ‘I am still – I am silent – I am hard.’ Useful attributes for any slave, ha!” Madam Chao gave Bernard a playful kick as Daphne giggled girlishly in response.

The rickshaw bounced heavily over a curbstone and came to a halt. “Ah!” Madam Chao exclaimed. “We arrive! 职务 my office.Put your gift in your bag, I will not have it back. Now you can take rickshaw on to Westminster. Rickshaw slave need more practice.”

Bernard didn’t know what he was more disgusted by: the fact that the minster could be bribed so easily or the fact that she was prepared to be bribed while he was crouched, listening, at her feet. It just went to show, Bernard thought, how unimportant men are politically these days.

It’s a fine day. I’ll walk from here. It’s not far,” Daphne said. And besides, she thought, maybe it’s best not to be seen arriving at the House in a rickshaw emblazoned with the Sunrise logo.

His side was spiked again by their heels as the two women climbed out of the rickshaw. Madam Chao and Daphne Takely stood chatting on the pavement for some time before shaking hands. Daphne gestured across Chinatown towards Westminster where her offices were. “Give my regards to Florence Daniels when you see her. She will be very keen on the programme you have planned.”

Madam Chao smiled as Daphne left her. Perhaps, she thought, she should have mentioned that Florence Daniels had already agreed to support the Junior Mistress programme. On the other hand, Daphne’s department would be briefing her about it, she was sure.

Bernard recognized the name of Florence Daniels. She was the New Order Minister for Home Affairs. She was responsible for things like policing, the administration of the male curfew, and the prison and detention service. He wondered what she had to do with the Sunrise business.

He didn’t have long to think, though. “No time to lay there! You get up, round-eye!” Bernard’s thoughts were interrupted by another voice that he recognised. He looked up. Liu Wei, one of the other Sunrise girls, smart in her yellow and blue uniform, was staring down at him with a look of disapproval.