Here is a bit from my work-in-progress (nearly finished), “Surviving the Book”, my next entry in the Race To The Hugo Awards. It’s another Holly Jahangiri and Pel Darzin story.
Surviving the Book – excerpt
by Marian Allen
Her heart beat faster as she navigated the crowded, busy hall. She had, indeed, worked with the policing force once before. With one member of the force, at any rate. A strictly business relationship, but a pleasant one. She scanned the figures hurrying around her, hoping to spot that familiar face. She couldn’t linger, though, or she’d be late for tea.
She reached the third door on the right. A plaque saying Enter Without Knocking, If You Please was fixed to it with ornate copperware. She did as it bid.
And there he was: slight, with large brown eyes and slick dark hair, very trim in his official tunic.
“Constable Pel Darzin,” she said, extending her hand.
“I’ve had a promotion,” he said, hooking thumbs with her. “I’m Jumped-Up Constable Pel Darzin, now. And this is our complainant, Allenninn Nonnemuss.”
Holly craned her head back to look the famous man in the face. Look him up the nostril, rather, for he was taller than anyone in the room. Part of his height was the four-inch platforms on the bottoms of his mauve suede track shoes, but part of the height was his own.
“So pleased to meet you, Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri!”
“And I, you, Entrepreneur Allenninn Nonnemmuss. Congratulations on your success. I only wish we had your book in our library. There’s a great deal of interest among our borrowers.”
“Ahh…!” He waggled a finger and smiled in a fashion both patronizing and coy. “FAILURE TO FUTURE IN 39 STEPS. But I didn’t get where I am by letting my knowledge be borrowed! I got where I am by letting my knowledge be paid for. See the difference?”
Just because I’m not you, doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Holly bit back the retort.
“Entrepreneur Allenninn Nonnemmuss will be part of our expedition,” Darzin said, with a private and heartwarming glance at Holly that said, Civilians!
Nonnemmuss smoothed the sleeve of his velvet tunic. “I’m also financing the mission and supplying the ship we’ll be using. I am the owner of the missing books, after all.”
This could not be allowed to pass. Holly felt her face going stiff. “One can’t own Living Books. They’re people.”
“Of course. Of course. I spoke in the temporary sense, naturally. I own their contracts, for as long as those contracts run.” He chuckled and said, to Darzin, “Fiery little thing.”
Holly longed for the courtesy protocol of her upbringing. In Meadow of Flowers Province, condescension was properly answerable by a firm slap upside the back of the head. In the city, such an action was considered shockingly impolite.
“In fact,” the entrepreneur said, “the tour was a little gift from me. An incentive to re-sign, if you will. At the same time, it was a gift to my intended bride, a distant cousin. A loan, for her family’s enjoyment. A taste of the life she would lead as wife of a man with wealth, taste and the resources of the city available to him.” He smirked. “Rule 32: Everything you do should serve at least two purposes.”
Darzin handed Holly a holograph. A plump woman with curly hair smiled out at her. Darzin said, “This is Entrepreneur Allenninn Nonnemmuss’ intended, Maria Nallena Nutella DiGoba, the bamboo heiress.”
The Virgin Princess of the Province, we call her. And she’s agreed to marry this blowhard?
The door opened and another man joined them. He was tall, dark and handsome, and sported a safari vest, the pockets of which bulged and overflowed with electronic components.
“The last member of our group,” said Jumped-Up Constable Pel Darzin. “Adventurer Morph O. DiZyne. He’s an expert in search and recovery, especially in wilderness areas.”
Nonnemmuss rubbed his hands together as if he’d been given an unexpected treat. “Excellent! Excellent! How soon can we start?”
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character has to work with someone he or she dislikes, and the dislike does NOT turn into love.