We’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from Kieran Shea’s new novel, Koko Takes a Holiday (available this week from Titan Books)!
Here’s what the book is about:
Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.
Read on for an excerpt!
Vice President Portia Delacompte slumps in her desk chair and visibly fumes.
Across the gleaming, sterile expanse of her dojo-esque office chamber her assistant, Vincent Lee, braces on his feet. Lee is twenty-three, groomed and polished to CPB junior executive standards, and quite unaccustomed to delivering such bad news so early in the day.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Delacompte begins.
As he clears some gummy residue from his throat, Lee is unsure as to where he should clasp his hands. At first Lee laces them in front of his pressed trousers, but quickly he decides the submissive gesture might intensify his boss’s irritation. Lee decides to adopt a full at-ease posture and wrings his hands behind his back.
“I’m afraid not, Madam Vice President,” he replies. “Six security personnel were assigned to the Martstellar detail. All six are dead apparently, and the firefight razed the building.”
Delacompte kneads the space above her eyebrows with four fingers. “And where is Martstellar now?”
“She’s heading for the Second Free Zone.”
“The Second Free Zone! What? How is that even possible?”
Lee shuffles nervously. “It seems she had a suborbital escape pod. I’m not sure how she concealed the craft from The Sixty Islands’ trace sensors and routine inspections, but Martstellar was out of range before anything could be done to stop her in mid-flight. Best guess is she smuggled the pod onto The Sixty in pieces and cobbled it together over time with modified electronics. Her training, naturally.” Lee clears his throat again. “I’ve already dispatched a confidential memorandum to our enforcement office. Robust penalty assessments for not discovering this are attached, of course.”
Delacompte scowls. “Idiots…”
“Yes,” Lee agrees. “I should have added myself to the detail as oversight, so I accept full responsibility for the mix-up. I’ve prepared my file for downgrade penalties across roster as well.”
Delacompte snaps, “Not you, you slimy little twerp. That security detail! Incompetents the lot. Bunch of good-for-nothings living the high life on a cushy CPB assignment. Tell me, they were briefed on Martstellar’s background, were they not?”
“Most definitely. A complete history.”
“And still they screwed this up?”
Delacompte bangs a fist on the arm of her chair. “Order a full staff recycle immediately. Flush all the corpulent dead wood. I mean, it’s not like we can’t find fresh militarized personnel salivating for SI duty. Now, then, as long as my day has turned into a giant flume of shit, how’s media? As bad as I expect?”
Lee swallows. “Unfortunately the feeds picked the incident up right away and containment on our end was impossible. As you know, Martstellar’s brothel operation was in a dense area, well-traveled and quite popular with SI guests given the nature of the sector’s … uh… um,” Lee searches for the precise words, “offerings.”
“So you’re telling me the witness distortions went viral almost immediately?”
“I’m afraid so, but all witnesses have been quarantined pending debrief assessments and fact cleansing. I’m confident we’ll be able to correct narrative fundamentals shortly. Public-relations containment is on full alert and working on distraction insertions as we speak. I expect an update in a few minutes.”
Delacompte fidgets. Working her shoulders and tightly cropped silver hair against her chair’s backing, she steers her eyes downward and fishes out a lime-colored plastic bottle from her bolero-style jacket. Refusing to meet Lee’s gaze, she snaps open the bottle’s lid and shakes out a small yellow capsule-a dose of the anti-anxiety drug Quelizan, commonly known as Q. Delacompte swallows the capsule dry and then pinches the bridge of her nose.
“What a mess…”
“Again, I’m so sorry, Vice President Delacompte.”
“So sorry does not unfuck this situation, Lee. Are you familiar with the sinister physics of a PR disaster such as this? The CPB and The Sixty may be all about licentious gratifications but our customers-moreover, our shareholders-demand rigid professionalism and oversight. Administrative decrees have to be respected. Even the slightest blowback from an incident like this and we could incur significant commercial losses. Minor at first, of course. A mere point tick here and there before adjustment corrections. But those annoying ticks can pick up steam, and if not redressed…” Delacompte lets the air completely leave her chest. “Not on my watch and not ever, do you understand me?”
“Yes, Madam Vice President.”
“Good. So, what else?”
“Well,” Lee says, “like I said, we’ve tracked Martstellar to the Second Free Zone, so anticipating your anger I’ve taken the liberty of assigning a freelance bounty operative, one Cleo Heinz, for pursuit.”
Delacompte’s flinty eyes slit. “You do realize that hiring a bounty agent for pursuit into the orbital confederacies of the Second Free Zone is illegal, don’t you?”
“I do,” Lee quickly answers. “But given the extenuating circumstances and anticipating your displeasure I thought you’d approve of the measure. I mean, this Heinz… she’s good.”
Lee puckers his lips and whistles. “Really good.”
“Good, really good, I don’t want to hear either. I want-no, I demand-perfection. We wouldn’t even be in such a position if that team of assembled screwheads you sent had their acts together.”
“Again, I can’t possibly express how sorry I am.”
“So, if you’ve already engaged this operative, I trust you’re being discreet?”
“Yes, of course.”
“You’d damn well better be.”
Delacompte stomps her boots on the floor and stands. The sound of her boots’ thunderclap jolts Lee in his stance. Sweat is running heavy for him now, and he watches helplessly as Delacompte retrieves a gun from inside the desk’s top drawer. Delacompte sets the weapon down on the right side of her desk.
Good lord, he thinks. Dealing with his boss’s narcissistic mood fluctuations has always been difficult, but Portia Delacompte brandishing a weapon? Well, that certainly is a new one. Would she actually use the gun, though? No, that seems unlikely. But then again, you never really know with Portia Delacompte. The woman has unrealistic standards and is, as they say, six jars past crazy.
Lee half-heartedly assures himself that the move is merely one more of his boss’s aberrant and malicious efforts at dehumanizing him. Yet, despite his telling himself this, a slow worm of dread twists inside. Corporal punishments on The Sixty are covered by executive immunity. Perhaps she would just wound him. Perhaps.
Lee looks out at the surrounding CPB HQ campus. The clean angles of glass and steel, and the mossy jungles, thick and vast, beyond. Five kilometers away he sees the rigged explosions in the Trauma Quadrant scorch the sky, wealthy vacationers burning whole manufactured villages to the ground. To the right and further out beyond the barrier reefs, an ad hoc regatta appears to be under way and the pristine blades of so many silver trimarans heel over on reach. Lee drinks in the whole panoramic view from Delacompte’s window with yearning and a twinge of despair. As if the next second might hold his last breath, he finds himself thinking on the last time he and his lover, a merchant seaman, engaged in affection-just that morning. Will his sailor truly mourn his loss? Lee has his doubts.
Delacompte smacks her hands down on either side of the weapon on her desk.
“Get me this freelancer Heinz’s file. I don’t care if she’s won a small war all by herself, I want to see it. And secure me a patch for the board of directors. Now. No doubt with the virals on the feeds they know about this disaster and already have their hackles up.”
Lee straightens with relief. “Yes, Madam Vice President! Right away.” He turns to go but freezes when he hears Delacompte snap her fingers.
“One more thing,” Delacompte says.
Lee turns. “Yes?”
Like the patient paw of an animal preparing to strike, Delacompte’s hand raises with a single finger upheld for Lee to take in. He nods and quickly scuttles out of the room.
Two and half years on the job, a nearly perfect CPB junior executive record, and he can’t believe it.
Vincent Lee’s CPB penalty count has finally begun.
[End of excerpt]