I doubt it’s a surprise that I’m working on a book. I’m actually working on a lot of them – a duology, a stand-alone novel, a novella and a five-novella sequence. Oh, and a few short stories, too.
The five-book sequence follows the crew of a ship as they get into a series of escalating adventures. I’d like to introduce one member of the crew here. Her name is Char Osbaldistan, and when we meet her here (in a flashback), she’s a smuggler, freshly captured by the Interplanetary Union (IU). But when we actually meet her in-universe, she’s a full-fledged member of an IU crew.
Char was first mentioned (but not seen) in the short story Dee, For the Win which you can read here.
Let’s meet Char Osbaldistan:
It was an office, why an office, Char didn’t know. Usually court rooms looked more like, well, court rooms and not offices. Yet there he was the tired old magistrate sitting behind a pompous desk, flanked by an inquisitor. The room was plush, velvet and wood against gold highlights. It spoke of power and authority, order and rigidity.
The inquisitor spoke first. “How many identities do you have? Your ship … what’s it’s name?”
“Why do you ask?” Char chafed against her bindings. There was a very comfortable chair in front of her, but sitting in it like this would be awkward.
“Your ship, for one, appears to have four different registrations.” Char bit back a smile – there were seven, but they’d only found four. That was good.
“For the record, what is your ship’s name?”
“What do you want it to be?”
“Don’t play with me, girl.” The judge’s contempt spoke of impatience. So, time to go slow.
“Woman. Twenty-seven. Clearly, I’m a woman.”
“I have grandchildren your age, child.” The judge dismissed her response with a wave of his hand.
“You, yourself,” The inquisitor ignored the exchange, “appear to have five different identities, all of whom,” He spoke in an aside to the judge, “pay taxes, by the way.”
“Seriously?” Char always left the money laundering part of the operations to the experts. All she knew was that she got paid her share, and it was a nice share.
“Yes, it’s an efficient way to look legitimate – pay taxes on income earned from fictitious jobs to cover that it was actually earned illicitly.” As if he needed to explain it to her. No, he was stating it for the record. This was being recorded, surreptitiously.
“I pay my taxes. Still, you arrest me?”
“You pay taxes for five people, at least four of whom are fake. Before we finish, you will tell us exactly how and from whom you got those identities.”
She chuckled. “Probably not.”
“What’s with her ship?” The judge asked.
“It’s a little planetary system slug modified with a hyper drive.” The inquisitor read from a note screen. “Slugs are everywhere, working boats that might move cargo pods, align construction segments, move a hulk around. They often hitch rides with cargo carries from one system to the next. It’s so common, and so universal, that a new one in a star system would never raise suspicions. It’s the perfect smuggling vehicle.” He turned back to Char.
“From your vessel’s logs, we’ve learned that you’ve worked in the Hadriatik Republic, the Triple Alliance, the Non-aligned territories and around Melakka. The ship’s history appears to suggest that it originated in Melakka, which would tie you to the identification of Char Osbaldistan.” The inquisitor nodded toward the judge. “Thus we have determined that for the purposes of this hearing, you will be identified as such. Miss Osbaldistan, do you object?”
“Then what name would you prefer?”
“No, any name will do. I object to being captured. I object to being tried. I object to my ship being confiscated. I object to it being the bloody useless Interplanetary Union that arrested me and not some respectable government. This isn’t a real judiciary, you have no authority. This is a kangaroo court.”
“Char Osbaldistan, you’re charged with illegal operation of a vehicle, four counts of impersonation, smuggling, piracy and theft. You will learn to respect this court’s authority and you will do so quickly.”
“You want me, you want people in general, to respect your authority? You don’t know the difference between smuggling and piracy.”
“Both act outside of the law.”
“So does speeding. You don’t equate it to piracy … bloody kangaroo court, full of amateurs.”
— 30 —