He noticed Fneremy’s eyes. There was a lot more movement than he would have liked. The thought crossed his mind that this might not end well. At least not for Fneremy.

On the plus side, the technology was improving all the time, it really was. They had managed to control a lot of the facial tics in the most recent HealthSec 2.0 models. Much of the time, Fnunt’s face was almost completely still. The smirk remained, of course, and the eyes were proving to be a real problem. How to control those bloody nervous flickers? But they had come a long way. Paradoxically, this made Fnunt easier to read than previous models. The motionless, leathery face provided a perfect backdrop to allow one to focus on the as-yet-uncontrolled eye movements. This was a definite drawback.

Fnunt’s eyes were currently oscillating back and forth.

“Are you okay, Fnunt?”

“Yes.”

“Sure?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. So what’s next?”

“Yes.”

“What’s next, Fnunt?”

“Yes.”

“Fnunt! Get a grip of yourself man! What are you doing next?”

“Ah, yes, sorry, right. What’s next? Well, we’ll impose the contract.”

“Right.” He paused. “And?”

“We’ll impose the contract, Sir!”

He had to shut his eyes and refrain from getting too angry with this imbecile. He had to remember that this imbecile was a prototype, a prototype that, judging by its increasingly frantic eye pulsations, was at risk of becoming a failed prototype. He continued, deliberately, “And how will you justify the imposition?”

“There are 11,000 excess deaths because we are not staffing our hospitals properly at weekends…”

“Yes, that’s a good start.”

“…and we have tried to negotiate with the BMA to find a way to remedy this. Unfortunately, they have walked away from negotiations, despite us working with ACAS and Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust – Safe, Clean, PersonalTM – to offer a contract that gives them a good deal.”

“Maybe a bit less detail on Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust – Safe, Clean, PersonalTM.”

“…as we have been instructed by many trusts to bring this uncertainty to a close as soon as possible…”

“Nope. You better scrap that bit. Probably best if your bullshit isn’t too brazen. Not at this moment in time.”

“Non-brazen bullshit. Okay. Well, I was wondering about a hashtag. The doctors seem to like hashtags, so maybe the way to get them to ditch the BMA and see the light is by using one. How about #imposethefucker? Or #takethatbitches?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Fneremy.”

“Right you are.”

“You’re going to get asked again why they hate you so much. You didn’t handle that too well on Andrew Marr, you know. Have you worked on that?”

“Junior doctors are incredibly hard working professionals, amongst the people who work the most weekends and nights in the country.”

“Good start, yes. I assume you’re going for the shit sandwich approach.”

“…I am trying to create an excellent, world class service.”

“Nice. Taking credit for something that existed before you got involved, I like it.”

“…Part of that means delivering on what we promised in our manifesto: a truly seven-day service.”

“Yeeees, very good.” He knew that Fnunt was just repeating some tired old bullshit, but he thought some gentle encouragement might help to settle down the eye pulsations. And was that a slight tic he saw there? Had they not eliminated the tics from this model?

“…There are 11,000 excess deaths because we are not staffing our hospitals properly at weekends.”

“You’ve already said that, Fnunt.”

“11,000 excess deaths. They’re killing babies.”

“Whoa, Fnunt, we’ve spoken about this. Focus on one thing at a time. And don’t forget the shit sandwich is meant to finish with a good thing.”

“11,000 excess deaths. 11,000 excess deaths. 11,000 excess deaths.”

He began to suspect some kind of malfunction. He tried to move him on. “Okay, Fnunt. What about when they ask you about the scientific debate around that data?”

“11,000 excess deaths! 11,000 EXCESS DEATHS!”

“Right, but Fnunt, enough people know about the contestation of your interpretation that…”

“They are wrong! Fiona Godlee is wrong! The junior doctors are wrong! The BMA is wrong! Science is wrong!”

The darting eye movements had escalated to a chaotic whirring.

“Okay, Fnunt. Settle down.” He had seen this before with the previous models. He feared the worst.

“DOCTORS ARE WRONG! THE NHS IS WRONG!”

The smirk was becoming increasingly manic, and the tics had become constant. Smoke began to appear from his ears as the twitching went into overload. Then it began to appear from his eyes as well, before a little poof followed by a billow of smoke from the ears. A final few wisps emerged from his nostrils as the facial movements subsided. He let out one last whimper: “Long live homeopathy…” The last word faded out and he was still for a few seconds. Then one last spasm and that was it.

“This Fnunt is fucked. Bring me the next one please. And quickly. We’ve still got a lot of work to do on this.”

He surveyed the finished Fnunt. The technology really had come a long way.

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