For lack of anything more interesting to report, here is a snippet from the new book.
This takes place on a prison planet. Some of the guards have revolted, killing the others and abandoning the prisoners who are also trying to escape from the planet.
It is still in the early stages, but I think it gives an idea of what the book will be like.
I began my assent, heading for the sixth floor and ignoring the other floors that I passed through. I could check them out later, if there was going to be a “later”. I knew from previous visits to similar institutions that the sixth floor was the nerve centre of the whole colony. When I was nearly at the top I was confronted by a sealed door, the glowing red edges indicating full lockdown. This disappointed me a little, but at least what lay beyond would not have been destroyed by the prisoners.
There were probably only two ways I was going to get through this door.
The slow way involved dragging some cutting equipment over from one of the mines, which was not a thought I relished.
But the fast way relied on the incompetence and dysfunctionality of what remained of the Galactic Empire’s data system. What the heck, there was no way I was carrying a cutter up from the mines if I didn’t have to!
I stepped up to the door.
“Welcome” said the computer’s formal, but slightly sexy, female voice. Why did they insist on doing that? Was it because the people that put these systems together never meet real women? I guess I will never know, now. “Prepare for Body-Scan-ID.”
I stood still to let the scanner do its work.
The glow around the door faded.
“Welcome, Galactic Emperor Zurdarg IV.”
The door slid open and I was able to climb the last flight of stairs, emerging in the middle of the hexagonal command centre. The commanders of a Penal Colony had very little to do. Weeks or months could pass between breaks in the automated routine and my surroundings reflected this. Apart from a few control consoles and a large holo-screen with a countdown ticking away on it, the room was mainly fitted out for leisure. Comfortable seating, assorted games, a small gym. The domed Plexiglass roof gave impressive views in all directions of soaring mountains on three sides, which opened out to an endless plain on the fourth, which is where the starship landing area had been constructed. There were two ships there. The colony’s own transporter was just leaving the ground, while the huge freighter that brought in supplies and new prisoners, and took away the metal from the mines was surrounded by a seething mass of ex-prisoners.
I turned back to the holo-screen, which currently read 5.672.
“Yes, your Imperial Majesticness?”
It was a long time since I had last been called by that ridiculous title, and it had definitely triggered the computer’s flirty sub-routines.
“Yes, your imp-”
“What is the countdown for?”
“The countdown, your Imperial Majesticness, is to the total and absolute destruction of this colony.”
“Is something wrong, your Imperial Majesticness?” If the computer had a face it would be pouting by now, about to go into “talking to the cat” mode, saying what a bad tempered person I was.
“Yes, there is!” I shouted. “I hate being called that! Stop calling me “Your Imperial Majesticness!”
“Of course, Your W-”
“Zurdarg! Call me Zurdarg!”
“Of course, Zurdarg IV, Benef-”
“No! None of those silly titles!”
“But His Imperial Mightiness Who is Lord and Master of the Entire Galaxy must be addressed using one of the titles from the approved list”, she protested in a voice that had been used by gazillions of people in the past while explaining the need for yet another pair of shoes with a matching bag.
“And you have a file that contains this list?”
“Of course, Your Mightiness, Commander-in-Chief of the All-Conquering Imperial Battlefleet.” She was on to flattery now.
“Show it to me!”
“Yes, Your Majestic Tastefulness, Creator of the Most Wonderous Pizza Ever Encountered in All of the Known Galaxies.”
The list appeared on the holo-screen.
It was a massive list, accumulated by myself and my three ancestors whether we liked it or not, evidence of the obsequious flattery that people had tried to use to control us.
“Delete them all” I instructed.
The list shrank and vanished, lessening the tightness in my chest as it went.
“Now add Zurdarg.”
The name appeared.
“Yes, Zurdarg.” Did I detect a sulky undertone?
I sighed with relief.
“Oh, and stop the bloody countdown!”
“Yes, Zurdarg.” Definitely sulking…
The countdown stopped.