Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I was face down in a pool of someone else’s vomit when they came for me. They had to drag me for two blocks before they could find someone with a cleansing suite capable of shifting the layers of ingrained filth that covered me from head to toe.

A little while later I stood, dripping and twitching, before the Commander of the Watch.

“Your Majesty, I’d like to say it’s a pleasure, and I’d like to say you’re looking well. Neither would be true.”

I nodded: “Gardin, I do understand. If you’d held off for a week, I could have made your day by being unable to appear by virtue of being dead.”

Gardin Badnors, my lifetime guardian, leapt his desk and punched me so hard it put me over the settee and through the coffee table. When I came round, he was standing over me, tamping his pipe and looking less than happy.

“You’re a charming young man and a royal fuckwit of the first water, Your Majesty. However, I will grant you that the assassination of your sister placed an unfair burden upon you, and the arrival of the alluring young Princessa from the Codamor System was timed perfectly to capture your grieving, turn it into lust and then groom that into obsession.”

He paused to lift a boot and place it across my throat: “But Your Majesty’s decision to indulge in an orgy of sex, drugs and gambling was his own bastard stupid idea of coping. As such, I had considered granting your unstated request to die as an unmourned addict of the Codamor opiate with the street name ‘A’.”

He knew. I’m dead, and it’s not going to be quick. Royalty or not, he’s going to kill me.

Gardin smiled around the pipe and exhaled a cloud of smoke: “No, you little shit, I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to help Your Majesty in the glorious coup you’ve come up with to reclaim the planet you gambled away for ten grams of A snorted off a fake Princessa’s lily-white arse. Alternatively, I’m going to lean on my boot right here while Captain Roukan puts a forceprobe through your lungs, then watch you choke on your own blood. You may slap your right hand on the floor to lead our noble cause, or your left to receive the ignominious end you so richly deserve.”

Bastard. But he’s right, too. Double bastard. I slap my right hand on the floor.

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