The quote at the beginning is about the Gary McKinnon case. I just felt there was something wrong about taking someone to a country to stand trial for a crime, when the accused has never ever been to that country and the alleged crime was committed in a different country.
That situation is the trigger to the book.
Anyway ... enough of the grandstanding - here are three excerpts to whet your appetite. These are chosen
1) The restaurant - see if you can spot the theme, and by the way the corrupted French is deliberate
In the private restaurant of the hotel, Safron Jons was having the date from hell. The hotel’s reputation was for one of the best themed dining experiences in Roquip and by extension the Republic. The waiters wore silver uniforms with either silver face-paint or metallic-looking masks. The maitre-d was dressed in black with a complex face-mask that accentuated his breathing. He was supposed to represent a mythical being that fought androids. The low-level lighting and the futuristic, an ancient term meaning hi-tech and unusual, décor gave the restaurant a unique feel.
Safron’s main problem was the civil servant had access to a lot of important information, so she had to keep him interested but not too interested. She had decided to ply him with as much wine as she could, get him so drunk that he would spill too much information and would not be able to follow up on his lechery.
Safron winced as her date, exactly the sort of man she did not go for, small, bald and sports-obsessed, put his arm around her as they walked to their table.
A silver-waiter handed them both electro-menus.
“So the Captain was found guilty of treason,” she stated as they sat down.
Her date nodded studying the menu.
“But what could he have done on a routine patrol, to have been charged with treason?” Safron continued flicking the electro-menu’s screen to skim through the selection.
“I am not at liberty to say,” he replied. “You know I’ve never eaten here before. It is unusual.”
Safron hated the restaurant. As far as she was concerned it was tackiness with a metallic sheen. “Was it a routine patrol?” she asked, “I mean if the rumours are true, it sailed down to Teenin where the dinosaurs are. That’s not routine. Is it related to the incident last year?”
“I can’t answer that,” her date answered holding up his electro-menu. He scrolled down the display. “What are you wanting to drink?”
“I think a bottle of ŝat-Wark,” she replied studying her copy. She pressed the order button before her date could argue, at least she was going to get some wine she liked. And he was paying.
“Did you know ŝat is an ancient word meaning large house?” he said.
Safron did know that. “Really?” she replied feigning interest.
“Yes but originally it was spelt c-h-a-t, then changed to s-h-a-t and then to the modern spelling.”
Safron didn’t know that and to be honest she didn’t care. There followed a nervous silence broken only when a waiter appeared with their cooled bottle of wine and poured two glasses.
“Cheers,” Safron said.
“To your health,” he replied.
“And yours,” she added with the traditional reply. She studied the menu, it was full of ancient terms. Polo – that was chicken, soup – that was søp just spelt wrong and poison, that meant fish. Why couldn’t they list the food in normal Beespoke. When in doubt during an uncomfortable restaurant situation there was one strategy that worked. “What are you having?” she asked.
The first course was filled with banal small-talk but as the main course and another bottle of wine appeared, most of which Safron ensured did not go in her glass, she decided to get back onto the main subject.
“I mean Teenin, have you ever wanted to go there? I have.” Actually she had never given it much thought.
“Oh no,” he shuddered. “The animals there can eat you.”
“Yes, but did anyone on the trip get eaten?”
“Well supposedly one person did. He shot … Do you really want to go and see places like that?”
“Oh yes. Imagine the excitement.”
She could see the minor civil-servant’s dilemma. He obviously had no desire to see dinosaurs but didn’t want to appear afraid.
“Yes, but to spend days travelling there just to see a few animals. Can it be worth it?”
“Not just ordinary animals, dinosaurs.” Safron felt they were moving off the subject slightly. “But what sort of treasonous event could occur with the dinosaurs? Nothing intelligent lives there. There’s nobody to be treasonous with. And what could the captain of the submarine do to cause this, apart from surrender the submarine to a foreign power or declare war.”
“You should not be asking these sorts of questions,” her date commented.
“I’m a reporter. It’s my job to ask questions,” she said lifting the wine bottle up and furtively trying to calculate how much she had drunk. “Anyway he didn’t declare war, nor did he release state secrets and he brought the submarine back. That is the original submarine?” Safron asked.
“Yes it is.”
“So what could he have done that was so important and so secret that the trial was held in camera?”
“I have a spare ticket for Roquip Amateurs against URP kickball match, a grudge match. If you’re interested.”
“That’s next week isn’t it? I’ll be back in New Budapest then. I’ll be heading back straight after the execution which I’ll be covering. Unless there is a further lead for me to follow up in Roquip of course,” she teased topping up the wine glasses, ensuring that her companion got more than his fair share.
“So you’ll be covering the execution then?”
“Oh yes, it’s not often that someone is executed live on television for treason. Do you think they’ll reveal more about the specific charges?”
Her date just shook his head and sipped his wine.
“They must say more, the public are demanding it,” Safron continued. Although the public were mostly demanding more details because the press were pressing for them.
“It doesn’t matter. National security is at risk and that’s all I know and to be honest I don’t want to know any more.”
Safron finished her glass of wine. It didn’t look like she was going to get more information.
“So you are definitely returning after the execution?” he asked.
Safron wasn’t going to give up so easily. “Well yes, I need a reason to stay. I mean I can’t just stay in Roquip on expenses.”
“It doesn’t need to be on expenses. I’ve got an apartment …”
Shit, this was going horribly wrong, fortunately the maitre-d appeared. “Ish everyshing to your shatishfashun?” he asked, his mask making him hard to understand.
“Another bottle of wine?” Safron asked. After all, she wasn’t paying.
Henroril recognised a few people he went over to them. “This is Benol,” he said introducing Janol. “He does magic tricks but he’s lost his bus fare home.”
“So what can you do then?” an attractive woman asked.
Janol’s or Benol’s first trick was to make a coin fall through the bottom of a glass. He was covering the glass up, casting ‘open’ on it, then while the bottom of the glass was hollow, the coin would fall through. A close spell then returned the glass to its original state.
“Can you do it with a full beer?” he was asked by another woman. Janol’s mind started to think of Lopilia and then Golrin, but his mind was snapped back to reality by a “What else can you do?” question.
“The beer will fall out of the hole I’ve magically created,” Janol explained answering the first question.
“Ah I see,” the woman replied.
The conversation struck Janol as truly bizarre, he was effectively telling them the truth but they thought he was lying, while he pretended to lie … It was not worth thinking about.
He had had three beers bought for him at this point and was refusing any more. Quite a group had gathered around him to watch him. His next trick was to cover two glasses over with his cloak, leaving a gap over the tops of the glasses. One glass was empty and the other full. A siphon spell would then move all the beer from the full glass to the empty one. That trick got a lot of cheers. The next trick involved an untie spell and a piece of string. He was desperately thinking what magic he could do that would look like very clever pretend magic. Telekinesis would do, no better preserve power.
There was a sudden rush at the door.
“Shield,” Janol said. Bugger it. Someone must have recognised him or something. Armed police began to run through the doorway. “Lock,” Janol shouted at the door and it slammed shut. Through a window, Janol could see confusion outside as several police ran into the closed door and collapsed at the entrance. Only three had made it into the bar and then turned round to find themselves alone in a room full of bewildered and angry drunks.
His power was at seventy percent. Janol realised how much he had wasted getting free beers.
“The strippers have arrived,” a female voice shouted.
There was a cheer and several crude suggestions.
“Republic!” Rodgal corrected.
“In the prophecy it’s an empire. They were always empires.”
“Where did you get this?” Rodgal asked looking at the first page.
“I wrote it a couple of days ago.”
“Not so ancient then. The land of Oz?” Rodgal said reading the first couple of lines.
“New Sidnee, I hope the reference isn’t too obscure.”
“Why not just say New Sidnee?”
“Because that’s not how prophecies work. They have to have obscure meanings in that the reader has to decode. Then when they have they’ve got this sense of achievement and are more willing to believe it. It’s how people’s minds work. Then there have to be debates as to what everything means. There’s an art to writing them. You have to get the references close enough so that there’s a bit of ambiguity but not too much that it can mean anything.”
“Say that again?”
“If you have an emotional investment in a belief, then it is far harder to believe that it is wrong. It’s how religions and conspiracy theories have managed to survive. By making people decode the prophecy, then it gives the person decoding it an investment in it and in doing so they will actively try and persuade other people of its truth rather just say, oh that’s a piece of nonsense.”
“Oh, I see,” Rodgal replied unconvinced. “The warrior Jan from the South?”
“That’s Janol, you have to spell their name slightly wrong. It’s one of the rules.”
“What is ioxioxio?”
“Ten times ten times ten, it represents a thousand years.”
“I’d never have worked that out. Who is the singer?” Rodgal asked as he finished reading.
“Ah now I was particularly obscure there, they will have to work particularly hard to work that out.”