With Queen of Nowhere coming out a week today, I thought I’d put the first scene up here, to give you a flavour. Enjoy.
After three weeks of luxurious indolence, Bez was ready to become someone else. She had, however, intended to make the change on her own terms. Not like this.
The cops were waiting when she came out of customs, a man and a woman in silver-grey uniforms, looking faintly uncomfortable. The female officer said, ‘Are you Medame Oloria Estrante?’
It was a doubly pointless question. For a start, the station authorities would not accost disembarking tourists randomly: they knew, or thought they knew, whom they were addressing. Secondly, Oloria Estrante did not exist. But the fact that the cops used the name, and sounded convinced by it, went some way to allay Bez’s initial alarm. ‘I am,’ she said, in the tone of perplexed irritation hub-law expected from the leisured classes. ‘What can I do for you, officers?’
The starliner’s other passengers were filing past, some of them looking back curiously. Bez made herself ignore the unwanted attention, at the same time clamping down on the urge to start analysing possible causes of, and ways to deal with, this unexpected and unwelcome development. First priority: stay cool.
The female officer said, apologetically, ‘We’d like you to come with us.’
Bez had fired up her basic headware – the legal suite, as she thought of it – the moment she spotted the law. Her overlays confirmed the pair were what they appeared to be; or, at least, their uniforms had genuine tags. That reduced, but did not eliminate, the chance of this being Enemy action. Bez favoured the two officers with a put-upon frown. ‘Where to? I was hoping to get some shopping in during the stopover.’ She needed to keep conforming to their expectations.
‘Just to our offices, to answer a few questions.
She sniffed. ‘Do I have a choice?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘Then you had best lead on.’ She kept her tone faintly incredulous, like someone with nothing to fear, but the moisture had left her mouth and breathing evenly took some effort. At times like this she wished she had mood-mods. Fortunately there weren’t many times like this.
As the cops fell into step either side of her she asked, ‘Can you at least give me some idea what this is about? I’m assuming there’s some mistake, which I’m happy to help you clear up.’
‘I’m not sure it would be appropriate to say,’ said the male officer.
The female cop said, ‘I believe Medame Estrante has a right to know what the matter pertains to.’ The woman was one of those people who treated the conspicuously rich with deference, regardless of how unpleasant they were in return. Bez had noticed such behaviour before when in this persona. ‘We’re investigating certain financial irregularities,’ the cop explained.
Trying for an air of indignant confusion, Bez asked, ‘What sort of financial irregularities?’
‘The theft of a significant sum from a semi-dormant account.’
‘Theft?’ That kind of accusation warranted outright indignation. In some ways interstellar tourists were the easiest cultural group to impersonate; their disdain for those without the excessive wealth required to travel the stars made them imperious and unreasonable, like holodrama caricatures of themselves. ‘Ridiculous.’
‘The account in question belongs to a Frer Yolson. Does that name mean anything to you?’
Yolson? Ah, of course. Not the Enemy after all, thank the void.