I had to choose the venue with care. An Kohli’s physiology is sufficiently different to ours to make her stand out in a crowd. However, the restaurant that I chose is one frequented by Grayson Perry, Boris Johnson and Bruce Jenner, so the staff and clientele were used to strange looking people and I knew that she would attract little attention.
She arrived quite punctually, considering how far she had come. She is tall, with a figure that might be described as willowy by some, but there is a visible strength in her arm and thigh muscles. She certainly doesn’t carry any unnecessary weight. She has supermodel good looks and heads were turned as she walked past. Her lilac coloured skin bore a healthy glow and her rich mauve hair cascaded across her shoulders. She was wearing one of her trademark Superskin™ one piece outfits which clung to her curves almost as well as her natural skin; it certainly showed off her natural assets to perfection. Her smile, as she approached, was a brilliant white, but I later found out that she is actually able to change the colour of her teeth to suit her surroundings.
As An Kohli approached she proffered her hand, which was holding two small devices. One resembled a button while the other looked like a miniature ear piece for a hearing aid. This was confirmed when she pointed to her ear, so I did as she indicated and inserted the device. At once her voice sounded in my head.
"The other bit just sticks to your chest." She said, pointing to a similar device on the front of her own clothing. "It's a universal translator. Mine translates what you say to my language, while yours does the same for my language. Without them this interview wouldn't get very far, as you Earth people haven't discovered Common Tongue yet."
I am embarrased to say that I hadn't thought about that logistical hurdle. I'm guessing that such forethought is very much a reason why she is so good at her job. I mumbled something to that effect, before offering her the menu, which she refused.
“As I have to travel through time to get here I daren’t eat anything. It is almost impossible to predict what any interaction of mine might have on the future of this planet, so I have to keep such interactions to a minimum, which includes not eating. I even have to be careful what I say. One word out of place could send the world’s stock markets tumbling, if they were to know what I know about your future. It’s a bit of a pity really, because the one thing I admire about this planet is the curry you make. You can’t get better anywhere in the galaxy.”
“I’m not too sure. My co-pilot, Gala, looks after all that sort of stuff. All I know is that if the five dimensions are manipulated in certain ways, time travel isn’t just possible, it is inevitable.”
I remark that I am only aware of four dimensions. She laughs at my naïveté.
“When the people of Earth finally realise that space is also a dimension, they will start to make the scientific and technological advances that will allow them to join in with the rest of the galaxy. It is the manipulation of all five variables that allows both trans-light speed space travel and time travel. Once you get the science right, the rest is just hardware.”
Realising that I was very much out of my scientific depth I changed the subject.
“Perhaps we should start at the beginning. You mentioned your co-pilot, Gala. How did you first meet her?”
That sounded like a an interesting story, so I asked her to tell it.
“He was doing what school bullies always do. Picking on the new kids, demanding money with menaces; the usual. When he got to me I just kicked him in a tender spot. It seemed to do the trick, but it earned me a detention. He didn’t bother me or my friends again though. Anyway, Gala and I sort of clicked and we’ve been friends ever since.”
“I met him in a bar. Well, I tripped over him actually. He was lying on the floor, drunk and trying to work out how to stand up again. When the guy I was chasing got away I realised that it might be useful to get a Gau to help me. They are shape shifters, as you know, and can pass for just about any species that is of a similar mass to them. He was short of money, as he always is, so I hired him and he helped me apprehend my target. He isn’t the bravest being in the galaxy, but he’s useful.”
“Why is his last name ‘Gau’? Surely that’s his species.”
“It’s a thing they have on his planet. If anyone is unsure of their parentage they are given a distinct first name, but their second name is just ‘Gau’. Because of the nature of shape shifters, a lot of the beings on his planet have the last name ‘Gau’.”
“Perhaps you’d like to tell me how you came to be a bounty hunter. That’s an unusual occupation for a female.”
I could tell at once that I had said the wrong thing. Her turquoise eyes glared at me like she was trying to pin me to my chair.
“Considering where we are, and the out dated ideas your species still holds to, I’ll let that sexist remark go.” She growled. “Your species has a lot to learn before you are ready to meet the rest of the galaxy.” She took a deep breath, obviously struggling to control her temper.
“I became a bounty hunter because I’m a bit of a non-conformist, at least as far as the rest of my species are concerned. I come from a planet that specialises in retirement. It has a constant warm climate and the food we eat is not difficult to chew. So the majority of employment on my planet is centred on catering for beings from across the galaxy that want to retire there. It's a bit like your Eastbourne or Spain. Professions range from tax efficient pension planning at one end of the scale to the manufacture of incontinence pads at the other. My father was an architect who specialised in the building of high security retirement homes, for those beings who had ideas about retirement that were different to those of their offspring.
“You mentioned the Guild of Bounty Hunters. Tell our readers about them”
“There is no overall intra-galactic policing system and the majority of planets don’t even have extradition treaties with each other. This made it very easy for criminals to escape justice just by fleeing to a different star system. Bounty hunters came into being to fill the gap by crossing the boundaries of police jurisdiction to capture fleeing criminals.
“Are all bounty hunters Guild members?”
“No. It isn’t compulsory to join, and those that don’t are called ‘freebooters’. But if they don’t join then many law enforcement agencies won’t deal with them. Most of them actually don’t make much money, but they can’t join the Guild because they don’t meet the ethical standards.”
“You mentioned the Magi just now. Who are they?”
“I know what happened to them, but for the benefit of the readers, perhaps you’d like to tell them”
“Well, a group of beings called the Fell realised that a peaceful galaxy was an unarmed galaxy and that they could just walk in and take over, which they did. They were threatening to kill the Magi, so they had their intelligences downloaded into memory devices, called eggs. The eggs were being sent to a place of safety when they were intercepted and were lost.”
“And who are the Fell?”
“What about relationships. Does a bounty hunter have time for those?”
An Kohli’s face darkened and I sensed an air of sorrow come over her as she considered her answer.
“Relationships are difficult for bounty hunters. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been shot at, held captive, had to shoot my way out of trouble and so on. That’s a lot to ask a partner to put up with. They also become a lever that could be used against me. Imagine how you would feel if your partner were to be kidnapped and their life threatened just so you would back off. I’ve had boyfriends in the past, of course and I hope to find someone in the future. But right now I’m better off on my own. Trust is a big issue, so I need to take care of current business before I let someone into my bed that might potentially be an assassin. The Fell have made it very clear that I'm numero uno on their hit list.”
Sensing there was some hidden message behind that last sentence I wanted to probe some more, but the look in An Kohli’s eyes suggested I move on so, not being suicidal, I did.
“What made you decide to contact me to get your story told?”
“That came about over a boozy session in the Three Moons on Sabik. A bunch of us bounty hunters were doing the usual, getting drunk and telling old stories, when Laurel, she’s married to my old pal Merkaloy, said I should write a book about my adventures. Well, I’m not much for writing, so I decided I needed someone to write the book for me. I searched the galacticnet and your name came up.”
“But I’m living three centuries before you.”
“Well, if I want to be famous, it makes sense for the books to already exist in my own time, so people can read about me then and know who I am. Reputation is a big thing in my business. Look at Christopher Columbus. Nobody knew anything about him when he went asking for people to back him to go exploring. Imagine how much easier it would have been for him if everyone already knew he was going to discover America.”
“But how did you get your diaries to me?”
“Thanks to science and technology the galacticnet acts retrospectively. I can upload stuff to it in my time and it can be made to exist in all former times, providing there is suitable equipment to access it. Your PC or laptop may be very primitive, but it is capable of connecting to the galacticnet and accessing stuff that has the right permissions set. You just don’t know you are connected. Well, you didn’t until I just told you.”
I think An Kohli realised she had told me something she shouldn’t have, because her mouth shut with an audible click of her teeth. The revelation opened up some exciting prospects, however, so I thought it might be time to draw the interview to a close. “Well I think that just about exhausts my questions.”
“Hang on a mo. I didn’t come all this time just to answer a few questions. I want to talk to you about my share of the royalties.”
“Thank you An Kohli, but I’m afraid I’ve got to rush. Another appointment. Late already. Nice to meet you.” I hurriedly left the restaurant, leaving An Kohli to pay the bill.
The first in the series, The Magi, can be found here. here and is on special offer for 99p (99c) until Monday 2nd January.
The second book in the series, Genghis Kant, is released on 1st January 2017. You can pre-order it now by clicking here
When you upset the Fell, they don’t just kill you. First they bankrupt you, then they ruin your reputation, then they kill you.
In Genghis Kant, An Kohli is going to have a tough time restoring her reputation as Fell member Genghis does his best to make sure that her once respected name is regarded with contempt. She and her friends have to overcome enormous odds to prove who really committed the horrendous crimes on Mun Dane, for which An Kohli stands accused.
Genghis Kant is the second thrilling instalment in the Magi sci-fi series. If you enjoyed the first book, or if you like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett; if you are Jedi or Sith, a Trekker or a Whovian you’ll love this series of books that combines the best in Space Opera to tell a fascinating tale.
Buy Genghis Kant here