The concert draws to a close for the rulers of rock, Fiorinda, Ax and Sage, as they face the darkness spreading across the world despite their best efforts.
They've fought against collapsed economies, environmental meltdowns, energy crises, dark magic cults, and the complexities and struggles of their relationship. They've explored alternate states of being, embraced parenthood, raged against the machine, and then taken over running it. But has this been enough? Or was Earth and humanity always doomed to fall apart? Will this modern-day Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot see a brighter tomorrow?
This is book five in Gwyneth Jones' critically-acclaimed BOLD AS LOVE series.
Release date: February 25, 2021
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Print pages: 400
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
An array of supper dishes covered the low table between himself and his guest. She had eaten hungrily, when she’d recovered from her awe at the spread – which he found promising. Wang liked a woman who could eat. He sat at his ease, his arm along the back of the sofa. He’d seen her eyes widen when she took in the pictures of Fiorinda, which lined this pretty room, but she had made no comment.
‘Do you like my place?’
‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘It’s very cool.’
‘I like to think it has the air of a haven given over to secret pleasure.’ He smiled, and she smiled obediently. ‘But I interrupted. Please, go on.’
Dian Buckley had been England’s top music journalist; author of best-selling books on the phenomenon of the Rock and Roll Reich. She’d known the Triumvirate, personally, intimately … The General knew that Dian’s actual part in the lives of the radical rockstars had been much smaller than she told it. But the facts he could get anywhere, fact was immaterial this evening. He was collecting impressions.
‘What you need to understand—’ said Dian, earnestly, alight with wine. ‘I was a total insider, most favoured media-person, I saw it from the beginning—What you need to get is that it wasn’t hype. They really were our saviours, ever since Massacre Night. You know? When the hippies took over, our violent Green coup?’
‘Whatever disasters happened, people felt that if the Few were okay, we’d all be okay. It was more than celeb culture, it was genuine. Like, when I had my own tv show, which I did, very young, and it was essential viewing, I wouldn’t talk to anyone, no matter how big they were, if they were bores. You’d dread spending five minutes with some of the megastars, trust me. They were incredible. All of them, not just the Triumvirate. Allie, Dilip, Rob and the Babes. Chip Desmond, Verlaine. And George Merrick, Bill Trevor, Cack Stannen – that’s Sage’s band.’
Wang’s tame goddess counted on her fingers, listing her totems.
‘Ax’s original band, the Preston family band, he left behind a long time ago. You don’t have to worry about them. Fiorinda never had a band of her own, of course. But those names, the names I just told you, they were the core. If they talked to you, everything sparkled. The world had fallen apart, but the Few were still together, rock solid. You wanted to look like them, be near them, be in the gang—’
The General had a malicious impulse to inquire if Fiorinda Slater was one of these wonderful, light-the-room people, despite never having had her own band? The Chinese had made it clear that Ax and his partners were not war criminals, and were not to be vilified. But Dian seemed reticent in her praise of the young woman whose harsh fairytale had been so strangely woven into Ax Preston’s Utopian dream. The psychology of the Dians of this world is the same in any culture!
‘Tell me more about the Triumvirate.’
Her eyes darted to the photos – mere framed publicity stills – and to Wang’s face, seeking guidance. ‘Ax was lovely: a total star. So unassuming. And S—’ Dian laughed. ‘Aoxomoxoa: we were once very close, more than good friends, you know?’
‘I can believe it.’
Aoxomoxoa, the name Dian knew was preferred, was “Sage Pender”, also known as “The Zen Self champion”. A violent bully, involved in highly suspect pseudo-mystical technology; a notorious womaniser, and a hero tortured by the evil regime. An interesting character!
‘In the end I had to tell him to cool off. Fio’s so possessive.’
‘You were not entirely smitten with the rock and roll princess?’
Another wary saccade. ‘Some of us saw through her a little. She was an operator. Like, when she did that “unknown teen waif, coming off the streets”, thing, she still used the fact that everyone in the biz knew who she really was—’
The General raised his elegant brows. ‘Really? She traded on her father’s name?’
Dian affected to be horrified. As well she might, considering the story of Fiorinda and her father, the wicked megastar Rufus O’ Niall.
‘Oh, God, no! But she definitely knew how to work the system.’
Wang felt a kinship with that child of rotten privilege (untold generations of it, on the mother’s side). It’s a difficult burden. But his heart was touched by this other Englishwoman: thoroughly immoral, yet so gallantly determined to make the best of things. The press release folder he’d provided lay in her lap, like a last scrap of decency. He saw her glance at the cover page, and shiver away.
In the cities, flower gardens; in the countryside, cultivated land.
The Chinese characters would mean nothing to her, she was no scholar. Nor the translation: she was no analyst. But not even a superstar journalist, about to become a courtesan, likes to quite face the fact that her country has been conquered. He refilled Dian’s glass with Pouilly-Fumé. She smiled, and nodded.
‘The Reich was a feeling. They were never the government, they never tried to be, that’s all wrong. It was about who they were, it was the way they made us feel, I mean us, the media. The mediators. We passed that feeling on to the masses.’
‘Allie Marlowe, she was Preston’s chief administrator?’
‘Allie was the only non-musician. But she had it, she had the glow—’
‘What about Hugh Raven? Sometimes known as “Smelly Hugh”?’
Dian shook her head so the blunt-cut blonde wings of hair flew. ‘I never knew him. Smelly was marginal: a leftover from the Pigsty regime. None of the people I knew were Counterculturals.’
‘Of course not,’ murmured the General. No one who insisted on professing that deluded faith had been spared during the invasion; nor would they be spared in the mopping up. ‘And Dilip Krishnachandran? What were his responsibilities?’
‘Oh, DK was the DJ! The Mixmaster. He invented the mass-market form of Sage’s immix tracks, he brought immix to the dance floor—’ Dian caught herself. ‘Immix’ or immersion code, the software of direct cortical stimulation; bizarrely, in the England of the Reich, used mostly for youth culture entertainment … was one of the pernicious absurdities. Even saying the word could be instant death. She stared at him, transfixed by terror. ‘I hated that stuff myself, I wouldn’t go near it. Such a horrible idea, building fake perceptions and zapping them into people’s brains through their eyes. How can something f-fake be good?’
Wang frowned, not letting her off the hook.
‘By “Sage”, you mean Aoxomoxoa?’
She giggled and covered her mouth, turning the laugh into a cough.
‘I meant Aoxomoxoa. Sorry … Dilip’s responsibilities? He didn’t have any. That’s not how it worked. The Few were called “Ax’s rock and roll Cabinet”, but it’s misleading, they had no c-conventional posts, except S—hahaha, Aoxomoxoa was called the Minister for Gigs, but that was more or less a joke—’
A pause, Wang giving no clues. Dian reached her chopsticks, with careful bravado, for a piece of lobster meat.
‘Do you mind if I ask a question?’
‘Why did you come here, really? Why England?’
She’s quick, he thought. She has realised she already knows how to please and intrigue a powerful man. Be bold, Dian; but not too bold.
He laughed, so that Dian had to laugh too. ‘We came for your gold. We have an insatiable lust for gold, in China.’
Dian licked fiery, sticky sauce from her chopsticks. ‘But there isn’t any. British gold’s in Ireland and Wales, and there’s not much of it.’
The Celtic nations had not yet been touched.
‘But we have our methods, and we are connoisseurs. Small amounts of a distinctive, native gold can be very precious.’
‘Now you’re teasing me.’
A cheeky, coquettish grin; a weapon from the armoury of a tv journalist, turning the interview into a flirtation. But her face changed. The English roses fled from her cheeks, leaving her chalk-pale, in panic.
In the space-capsule bathroom Dian threw up briskly, rinsed her mouth; applied breath spray and sat on the toilet seat looking at her watch. Two minutes for recovery time: it’s always worth the investment. She had eaten more of the show-off food than her stomach would bear. Unbelievable, the seafood especially. White flesh of squid and abalone, swimmy pools of oysters in the shell on crushed ice, all sprinkled with yellow glitter, Hong Kong billionaire chic. She’d been hoping for fragrant rice, or bread. Everybody longed for bread; instead she’d been eating metal. And now she’d lost the lot, fuck, fuck. She could not afford to be thin in post-invasion London. It would brand her, make her look a failure. Could he be serious about the gold? She imagined Snowdonia strip-mined, ground to dust, and isn’t there some gold in Cumbria? Ireland and Scotland were supposed to be safe, they’d capitulated to all the Chinese demands. Some of Dian’s friends had fled there, but she hadn’t seen herself as a destitute asylum seeker.
I was right to stay put. Nowhere is safe now.
I am going to survive.
The 20th September, the day the Chinese had hit Cornwall with their staggering sub-orbital ships, was six weeks in the past. The four ‘Commanding Generals’ had England parcelled out between them, but everything had stopped dead after the 18th October executions. Sheng of the North East, who had taken a few major cities and hammered the Islamics in Bradford-Halifax, retired to build a fortress in Newcastle. In the South West, where Wang himself was in charge, crops rotted in the fields. The South East General had a cordon round East Sussex for some reason, but was doing nothing to restore the movement of vital food supplies. Londoners saw themselves facing starvation, as winter closed down, and Hu Qinfu, Commanding General In Charge Of Subduing The Capital, responded to pleas for action with brute force and bewilderment.
They measure famine differently in China.
There was something people had started to say, at the height of the invasion, one of those mysterious, obscure expressions that is suddenly everywhere, and everyone knows what it means. Is China going to take a card? The Chinese had leapt around the world, with the tech they’d been nurturing in secret through the years of chaos. Within a week they’d had Europe in a box, England and Roumania overrun. Almost at once, the English had known that their only hope was if the rampage went on. If China attacked again – striking at say France, or Ireland – the world would’ve had to muster some kind of protest, some kind of refusal.
The hope was gone, the moment had passed. China had taken a card. Fred Eiffrich, the same US President who’d compelled the English Second Chamber Government to accept Ax as Head of State, two years ago, had given the rape of England his blessing. And for their next move the Chinese would take over the world. The whole, entire planet. It was horrific, a nightmare, your brain couldn’t take it in, yet it was going to happen. There was nobody left to stop them.
But I am here, thought Dian, watching the seconds. With the Commander in Chief … Wang had been the public face of the invasion, the sexy one you saw all the time. He was tall and handsome (a man’s height was important to Dian). He looked just as good out of uniform, and the Four Commanding Generals were supposed to be equals, but it was obvious that Wang was top dog. The so-called General of the Capital, Hu Qinfu, was nowhere when Wang came to town.
As a journalist she was dead meat, no matter how close she’d been to Ax Preston, once upon a time. In the end, Dian had been the willing servant of the ruthless occult junta the Chinese had deposed, and everybody knew it. She couldn’t get a job as a toilet cleaner … But I can still follow the money. It’s what I do best. Recalibrate, recalibrate (that’s such an Ax Preston word). Survival is the new success.
Time’s up. Most of her make-up was permanent: the face in the mirror above the basin looked back smooth and bright, thank God. She added a dash of gloss to her lips and adjusted the neckline of her glittering tunic, worn over narrow, quilt-stitched trousers, Allie Marlowe style. Looking good. No man can resist a superb pair of boobs—and her eye was caught by a row of photos reflected behind her. Was that Fiorinda again? She turned, in the narrow space, with a strange tug of dread: and saw a child in school uniform, posing artfully; photographed with wicked skill. Fiorinda, at about twelve years old. The room she was in, down to its golden boudoir decor, was the one Dian had just left.
‘Oh my God,’ she whispered. ‘Where am I?’
The space capsule walls pulsed, black waves rippled across her vision, and she was huddled on the side of the bathtub, clutching the silver charm of the Three locked in congress that she kept on her keychain. She stuffed it back into her bag, horrified. I must chuck that. My God, why haven’t I thrown that away?
Now she had to go back to Wang. It felt like the most terrifying thing she’d ever done in her life. But food and shelter were at stake, comfort was at stake.
She didn’t hesitate.
The gold-curtained windows of the little living room were shimmering lamplit screens. General Wang made shadow puppets: a dog, a rabbit, a butterfly pursued each other into oblivion. He experimented quietly with the different tones, each with its specific meaning, of the most English of all words. Aggressive: Soh-ri; humorous, Soorrree; inquiring, So-ri?; and the incessant, barely articulated social lubrication: s’ry, s’ry. Mechanical fluency in a language is nothing to the power of one perfectly natural sound … Dian was taking her time. He surmised that she had spotted the other photos, the ones he kept discreetly out of sight.
As soon as she reappeared he knew he was right. ‘Ah, Dian. Have we finished with the food? Shall I have it cleared?’
‘Sorry, I suddenly felt ill. I’m not used to such rich dishes.’
‘You’re all right now, though? Good! I was wondering, while you were gone, what exactly is the meaning of that Western expression heart of darkness?’
She stared at him, her self-command shattered.
Wang nodded. ‘I’m curious, because, in a deluded sense, the “heart” of England’s “darkness” could be right here, where I am sitting.’
General Hu had taken possession of the Triumvirate’s modest home on Brixton Hill. That was his prerogative, and the best he could do, since Buckingham Palace had been gutted by fire when the siege was broken. Wang, with a different brief and more imagination, had located a more potent shrine. An orderly silently cleared the dishes. Wang waited until the man was gone. He sat upright now, relaxed but stern; authority emerging from behind the playful indulgence. ‘Yes, Dian, you’ve guessed it. This “flat” was the love nest where Rufus O’Niall, a brutally successful old rockstar, brought his young girls, and the last of them was Fiorinda Slater, his own twelve-year-old daughter. Whom he believed could bear him a child with “magical” powers.’
‘Oh my God. You can’t be living here. This is horrible.’
‘Nonsense. Close the door on the past, Dian. It’s only superstition that makes you afraid of a place where something ugly once happened to one of your rockstar royals. Rufus O’Niall was an unpleasant lunatic, and a war criminal. He’s dead; and that’s all.’
‘I’m n-not superstitious! I kept away from all that. I hated all that.’
‘Good.’ He watched her, with a gentle, urbane smile. ‘This is re-education, Dian. This is how it works. First you will learn to feign indifference, because you are an intelligent woman, you know how things stand for you, and you want to live. Soon indifference to delusion will become genuine, and your self-made troubles will be over. Why don’t you sit down?’
Dian sat down.
‘Let’s continue our conversation. Dilip Krishnachandran, although by far the senior, was Aoxomoxoa’s disciple. Were they also lovers?’ He laughed at her expression. ‘Speak freely, I’m not easy to shock. Actually I’m thrilled by all the Reich’s Bohemian couplings. Life must have been so exciting.’
She fled into the past. It was Boat People Summer, a year of disasters overcome: which had begun with the monster hippies in charge and an Islamic Separatist war in Yorkshire, and would end with the country at peace; storm and flood defied, and the Rock and Roll Reich established. But this was a night in June. A tv studio, as glamorous as such places ever are: a cluster of prefabs in a Wandsworth car park. Dian had interviewed Aoxomoxoa and the Heads on her live show; Fiorinda and veteran music critic Roxane Smith also appearing. He’d waylaid her afterwards in a makeshift corridor that smelled of carpet glue. He was eating hothouse grapes, tossing them into the open gullet of the living skull mask. Most rockstars are sad munchkins in the flesh. Dian was six foot, but Aoxomoxoa was easily two clear metres, and hench. His shoulders in that fuck-you white singlet, sleek and massive and perfect. His nearness was making her head spin, and he knew it. Possibly the hottest rockstar on earth, and she could feel his body heat.
‘London’s so different. I love the anarchy but I miss the neon—’
‘How about a fuck?’
‘Sage! You can’t do that. It’s outrageous. You can’t just, just—’
‘I jus’ did,’ he said, reasonably, in that slow, insolent Cornish surfie accent.
‘You’re such a clown.’
‘Not many people realise that.’
He took off the mask and smiled, with the bluest eyes. His naked face wasn’t such a prize as it should have been: Sage and his brother Heads had taken off their skull masks on the show, as a treat for the punters. But my God how sexy. She’d imagined this moment with better trimmings, but possession is nine-tenths of the law. He thinks he’s smart but I’m smarter. No way she wouldn’t get the rest.
‘Your place or mine?’ she wondered, with a bold grin.
‘Yours. I don’ like sharing my own bed.’
The band came trooping by, with the inevitable few mates in tow. Big George Merrick, Sage’s second-in-command, cast a skull-masked glance, expressionless. Then they were gone, and the blond bombshell moved in like a firestorm. His crippled hands, that she didn’t like to think about, were all over her. Everything blurred, the sharp edges of reality vanished … She had to recall that scene exactly as it had happened, down to the sting of George’s little disapproving stare, or she didn’t get the shock of his first kiss, her most reliable sex aid, an aphrodisiac that never failed. Now she was free to improvise … Sage whispered tender things, how he’d dreamed of this moment, how he longed to spend his life with her. They went back to his place, not to hers, because this time he’d fallen in love. He tried to go slow but his passion was unstoppable, he was feverishly undressing her—
Wang had no occasion to resort to fantasy. He was in bed with a splendid, willing Amazon, in the capital city of the most romantic country in the world; which he had recently conquered. Sometimes the moment is enough. But when she was sleeping he put on a robe, and sat looking out between the golden curtains (the bedroom had the same décor as the living room) into the quiet of Chelsea. He had visited London once, before the Crash: a sad disappointment, all bling and guns and the most repellent spiritual poverty. He preferred Ax Preston’s version, albeit ravaged by grandiose ‘Green’ redevelopments; and by Hu’s somewhat careless treatment. He liked the darkness of these English cities. The frugality of street lighting that mapped human movement, little networks of fire, ever-changing—
The courtesan slept like a baby in the haunted shrine; which allayed his own nagging disquiet. Disquiet? Call it fear and dread, if you must … But fear made this distasteful address worthwhile.
She would be his litmus paper; her responses his test-bed.
‘And if there is any secret gold in these clouded hills,’ he murmured, with bravado to match Dian’s, ‘it’s Chinese gold now.’
One Rainy Wish
The festival stages were going up in the midst of a picturesque heathland known as the Ashdown Forest, some forty kilometres south of the 18th October Line. Scaffolders mounted the mainstage towers with a merry clangour and hammering that sang of better days; of the Reich in its glory. Above the margins of the broad hollow that formed the arena, rolls of doubled baling membrane were getting stapled down for flooring, in shelters for the tentless. Marquees for smaller stages had already been raised, the designated campground was filling up. From raw battlefields and freshly occupied cities; some with Chinese permissions, some travelling on the underground; some from as far away as Yorkshire, the faithful had heard the call and made their way to Sussex. They drifted, watching the crews, buying hot drinks and pies from concession stands: clotting into groups; meeting the locals. No motor vehicles. True to its code, the Reich wouldn’t have sullied the protected heath with chicken-wire track, also they had very little fuel to spare. A line of roustabouts, backs bent like operatic Hebrew slaves, laden like donkeys or hauling great obelisks on handcarts, stretched from mainstage away out of sight, towards the road. Dogs and lost children fretted; aged supermarket trolleys ran aground. An enterprising local could be heard roaring out his wares, ‘Skids! Get yer skids here!’
Up on main stage the sound and light engineers took stock, reading the ’scapes of the hollow on gadget-belt screens, and discussing their difficulties in a private world, oblivious of the scaffolders’ row. A lanky individual in scarecrow jeans stared out into the arena from under the hood of a shabby grey fleece. He was searching the draggled multitude, without much hope, for a man called Doug Hutton – last seen several months ago, on the night Ax Preston and his partners were arrested as they tried to leave the country. But the crowd itself caught his attention. They had finally lost it, these indefatigable ravers. They were falling-down helpless, not a leg to stand on. They’d come here to be found, uprooted children, clinging to the familiar “traveller’s joy” logo on vans and battered marquees. To the shards of the Reich’s life raft, flotsam and jetsam on the grey waves of the heath—
‘Was’ that rubbidge Caro?’
‘Appropriate, healthy, social and political comment.’
‘Sounds like arsing culture ter me,’ complained a hefty fellow with a mane of curly black hair. The tall engineer shivered and gobbed into a nasty-looking rag, causing the team to yelp and gag, clasping their ears.
‘SAGE! Don’t fucking DO THAT! That’s DISGUSTING.’
‘Carn’ help having a cold, can I?’
‘It’s the “Slaves’ Chorus” from Aida,’ admitted Caro Letwynd, a pigtailed woman with a serene broad face, long-time chief assistant sound designer for Aoxomoxoa and the Heads. Her colleagues jeered. Ooh, we get it, old school art for a cause, the Italian connection, she’s trying to make out we’re respectable! If Caro was such a suck-up, someone inquired, did she have ‘The East Is Red’ in her catalogue?
‘You bet I have. Coming soon.’
This event, barely a month after the ceasefire, was officially sanctioned. The Chinese had dealt harshly with the suppurating sore of delusion. They were now eager to make the point that they had no quarrel with the English people. Or with England’s legendary Rock and Roll solution to the global crisis, apparently. They called the Ashdown Festival ‘an appropriate and healthy resumption of cultural life’. The Commanding General of the South East, Lü Xiaobao, had donated six truckloads of fresh straw, to be collected from the 18th October Line, in concern for the well-being of the masses. They’re a predictable lot, our conquerors. They wanted to be liked.
But it might be a trap—
Yet here they all were, like fish in a barrel—
A piercing, amplified voice invaded the engineers’ private world, no camp fires and you cannot cut down any trees … May not, muttered Caro, defender of the arcane beauties of Native English. A bearded hippy, a grizzling toddler in his arms, crossed and re-crossed the Bruegel foreground, getting the headshake from everyone he stopped. No, haven’t seen your loved ones. He was one of many, and not the only festie still in proscribed Countercultural dress … Chinese had fucking better be in an understanding mood, when they look around here. A chunkily built black man in obsolete British Army uniform collided with the despondent hippy: recoiled, and blundered on, groping his holstered pistol—
Sage retreated behind the desks, making a futile attempt to disguise his height by stooping down and hunching his shoulders. Fat chance. He’d been spotted. The wild-eyed soldier made straight for the stage, those in his path swiftly getting out of the way. It was Richard Kent, hero of the Islamic Campaign, commander of the Reich’s armed forces; the former British Army major who created Ax’s barmy army.
Richard should not be here: Chinese goodwill didn’t extend that far. He’d been warned (make that begged) to stay away. But of course he’d turned up, and with an equally toxic entourage: telling anyone mad enough to listen that they were organising the resistance.
The roustabouts gave Colonel Kent the boost he needed, they weren’t going to argue with an armed lunatic. He marched smartly to where Sage was trying to hide behind his visionboard.
Richard had lost weight, and there was a thick close growth of beard around his jaw. Deep-gouged lines of strain scarred his cheeks and brow, red rims to his hollow eyes, but he stood foursquare, belligerent.
‘I want to talk to you … Sage, look at me when I’m speaking!’
The engineer sighed and shoved back his hood, revealing gaunt angelic beauty, sketchy blond cane rows and a vivid pair of blue eyes.
‘Good to see you, too, Richard.’
‘What did you expect? Not a word from my leaders, all through the invasion, and we knew you were free. We were in contact with the Scots who sprung you out of jail, but from you three, nothing … I suppose it was impossible. I held a meeting of the chiefs of staff, we read the runes and decided Ax meant the lads to lie low … But that was then. We have to talk. I’ve been out of my mind. It was hellish, hellish, watching the regulars fall apart like wet toilet paper, and doing nothing—’
Abruptly, Richard lost conviction. ‘Are you even listening? Are you on some other fucking planet?’
‘I c’n hear you,’ said Sage. But he tipped the soundbead from his ear anyway, and looked at the pistol butt. ‘Did the Rangers say you could carry a firearm?’
Richard made an impatient gesture, breathing hard.
Lowly electricians, trying to cable-up antique monsters, could be heard complaining about bizarre connections; the shortage of gaffer tape, as if this was any other main stage, and nothing had changed—
‘Why couldn’t I find you? We arrived and nobody would tell me a thing, it was as if I didn’t exist. What the fuck—? All right, all right, forget it. Listen, it’s not over. IT’S NOT OVER. Half the country’s still unoccupied, the Celtic nations are untouched. We have matériel, far more than they can know. We have soldiers, few maybe, but harder, more experienced than they have any idea. We can have bases, here there and everywhere, we can harry them—’
‘Oh really? You’re gonna show the People’s Liberation Army how to do guerrilla warfare?’
‘I know it’s been hell, I know what happened to you guys. But you have to get back on your feet, we have to strike—’
Sage knew he shouldn’t say a word; except silence was going to make the man worse. ‘Nah, not the plan. We’re going to be the pacifists.’
Richard’s eyes bulged dangerously, he exploded in fury.
‘So you’re bottling out! You were the stuff of an outstanding officer once, Sage. I was proud to serve with you, in Yorkshire. But for you that was several different lives ago, that’s the problem. Before your trip to see God, before the fashionplate years at the court of King Ax. Frankly, I liked you better when you were a loutish, sex-mad, drunken, teen-idol in a ridiculous digital mask.’
‘Put not your faith in rockstars, they reinvent themselves every season.’
‘Rich, okay, start again: I’m serious. This isn’t somethen’ to fight, if we even could. It’s our share of a mighty disturbance in the Force, bro. It’s neither good nor bad, an’ violence is not the way to meet it.’
The soldier curled his lip. ‘I’ll wait until I hear the dreamy mystic cowardice line from Ax, Aoxomoxoa.’
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