Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The two personages in blue suits look at me like I’m an ornament. One that grandma got from her mama, only kept because of that, and never found a soul who liked it anyway.
Tall blue suit flicks a glance towards skinny blue suit, who’s standing slightly behind and to the left.
“It appears we have an unbeliever, Robert.”
Robert the Skinny nods like he’s received the wisdom of the ages.
“That is unfortunate, Malcolm.”
Malcolm the Tall gives the slightest nod. Acknowledging the act, not in any way a thanks for the agreement. After all, when one is always right, such niceties are irrelevant.
“My humble apologies, personages. I find myself between places of avode.”
Malcolm passes my card to Robert, who slips it into the reader in the top pocket of his suit jacket. Woven in: very discreet. Perceptions, after all, are everything.
Less than a minute passes before they both grunt, almost in unison. Neither are approving in tone.
Malcolm crouches down while Robert takes a step back, flicking his jacket clear of his holsters. Not one, but two. That’s not the customary wear, and what’s in them gleams like metal, not the dull sheen of tasers. Seems I’ll not be getting out of this one easily: I’ve been cornered by Obligators.
Malcolm notes my gaze.
“You are perspicacious, unbeliever. Which surprises me, because your record shows you to be between avodes far too often for one who presents themselves as well as you. Surely one as observant as yourself wouldn’t be so clumsy as to leave gaps in their record? After all, there are many places of registration that fail to keep as lovingly close a watch over their flocks as the Edicts suggest.”
As if I need to sign up to a dodge shop, where – for a monthly fee – my devout labour history could be maintained while I got on with defying the Torble: which is the officially blasphemous but far easier to pronounce nickname for the ‘Sainted Edicts of Labour for the Common Good, Being the Highest Way to Know God, as set down by His Prophets Oliver and Siraj’.
Robert picks up the sermon started by his elder.
“It could lead a pair of righteous personages like ourselves to believe you might have alternative means of support. So, what are you? A dogsbody, a money-changer or a prostitute?”
No mention of mercenary? They don’t have a high opinion of me.
My implanted comm vibrates.
Malcolm perks up. Robert draws a pair of military issue magnums.
“You have an implant? We may have cornered ourselves a dealer, Robert. Truly our avode is blessed this night.”
I smile.
“I presume you’d prefer me not to check or answer that?”
Malcolm raises his eyebrows.
“Both audio and messaging in an implant? Your sinning must be profitable. For shame that dealing in blasphemous wares isn’t considered avode, for all that you’ve clearly worked so assiduously at it.”
Robert grins anticipatorily.
This is about to get a little too real. Time to stop.
“Let me show you my other ID.”
“The unbeliever sees the light.”
Something like that. I raise and clench my fist, pressing down with my little finger. The subdermal tag on the outside of my hand lights up.
They scan it, exchanging looks of disbelief. The confirmation comes back. Robert looks sick.
Malcolm sighs.
“I’d heard Anointed President Gregory the Seventeenth was a reformed unbeliever. Seems the rumour is true.”
I smile.
“It’s not that bad. As far as I’m aware, I’m his only bastard. You have a good eve, Obligators. Ciao.”