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Penny needs new lingerie, & gets a pleasant surprise.

While it was reasonable for them to be in sponsorships, Stearns argued, it was clear from the number of instances of previously convicted males re-appearing before the courts, that more needed to be done to ensure rehabilitation. There was even, Stearns suggested, some evidence that re-offenders were more likely to be involved in some of the more dangerous examples of subversion.

Corey drew a ring around the article and set it to one side. "I wonder," she said to herself, "if Madam Chao's resources might have application in the management of discharged offenders. I will have to give her a call."

Corey wasn't the only one considering political issues, however. At the same time, Jackie Maygood, a recently elected Member of Parliament, was finishing a conversation in an office tucked away at the rear of the Prime Minister's residence in Downing Street

"I'm glad you're seeing things differently." Claire Dobell-Bull's smile - unlike the rest of her - was thin. It had been a difficult conversation but these things had to be done. One of the problems with a parliamentary democracy was that you had to go on winning votes in the House and there were always people that needed to be encouraged to see things the same way that the Cabinet did. This one would be all right though, she thought. She's new, still got her ideals. She just needs to understand how things work at Westminster. "It's been good to have this talk."

Jackie Maygood wasn't sure she agreed. It had been daunting when she'd received the call from Dobell-Bull's office. As the Prime Minister's fixer, Dobell-Bull had a formidable reputation for getting things done and for not worrying about who she trampled on in the process. Bull-Dog, as she was known in the corridors of Whitehall, had been among the founders of New Order. In the days when she and Johannsen, the Prime Minister, were at University together, with her enthusiastic promotion of a pro-female/anti-male agenda she had even been known as Bull-Dyke by a smirking few who would find it difficult to be quite so amused these days. Claire Dobell-Bull was a ruthless operator; pursuing any Member that showed the slightest tendency to move away from the party line. Independence of thought could be admired in Members but there were ways to get things done and Claire's job was to make sure they were done in ways which didn't upset the party apple cart.

For Jackie the interview had been short and good humoured but with the clear intimation that if she ever expected to progress in Westminster then she had better start supporting the Government trade initiatives. Behind Dobell-Bull's careful explanation of just why Jackie would be ill advised to oppose the setting up of the New Start corporation site in her constituency had been the unspoken implication that another speech against the proposals in the house would be very unwelcome.

"There's one other thing I'd like to discuss." Dobell-Bull took a cigar from a leather case, clipped it cleanly and lit it carefully. "Assuming the Sunrise proposals on New Start go through, we're going to need a ministerial brief covering inward investment at Trade. I'd have thought your deep understanding of the potential conflicts of interest with the local economy would make you a good choice." Claire drew deeply on the cigar. A cloud of blue smoke sat heavily above her.

Jackie was confused. The last thing she had expected was to be offered a job. "Well, thank you. I'll need to think about it."

"Don't worry. Let me know in a day or two." Dobell-Bull was already pretty certain what the answer would be. Like many new MP's, Maygood was completely incorruptible, except for the offer of power and influence.

Jackie gathered up her papers. As she did so she picked up the knife Claire had used to trim her cigar. "That's unusual," she said, turning it in her hands and looking at the polished stone handle and the ancient steel blade with its silver mounts.

"Mmm," said Claire, taking another puff.

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