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plural noun: wings
1. (in a bird) a modified forelimb that bears large feathers and is used for flying.

We got the hell out of Indahl. The car got us out of the city and we kept going, all the way to the coast. Nobody followed us from the villa, so I guess the police had shown up and kept them busy. We ditched the car and caught a ship heading west, towards the desert kingdoms.

I'm a weird contradiction of optimism and cynicism, and I almost always go for the wrong one at the wrong time. On the whole I distrust police and politicians and lawyers and I expect any organisation with more then ten people is likely to be corruption-central. But I also expect the best of people, and want them to prove to me that they can do the right thing. That's why we'd gone to meet that PAW group in Indahl - they were pretty much the only version that had achieved any kind of success. Everywhere else it was just a vague concept that attracted disaffected people wanting something to blame - People Against Wings indeed - but over there it had real political and cultural bite.

Unfortunately they were still a bunch of dicks, playing at who could be the biggest dick. All the acronyms and slogans and speeches and followers are for nothing when the only currency is power. As far as anyone else is concerned, you end up trading one group of arseholes for another.

To think I never used to be especially political. Cal had a lot to answer for.

That had all gone down four days back. We'd since arrived at our new destination in one of the oil-rich states, known for being a bit of a troublemaker. At least, that was the message we got back home. In fact, strike that: we were told that the Peninsula was a rogue state waiting to start a war. It was a no-go area, full of radical extremists wanting to crush our western way of life.

Sounded good to me, so we decided to check it out. Also: Furey assured me that was all bollocks, and that the reality was far more complex and subtle.

We rolled up to the building mid-morning, which meant it was already hot enough to start melting the soles of your shoes. The entrance was glitzy - big, wide glass doors set into a stone marble facade, rising gently out of the floor like a sand dune. This was just the foyer - the building then towered up and spread out into a mushroom shape high above. This wasn't any old building: it was home to an influential family of wings.

And we were about to walk in the front door.

The receptionist was the same genotype as my father, which gave me the willies, especially as he had essentially the same build and fur cut. Seeing people who looked the same as you wasn't unusual on Locque, of course, but having been to Earth and become aware of how things could be I'd become more acutely aware of the implications. Seeing this guy behind the desk didn't remind me of my dad so much as it did the meddling of all those Earth scientists and organisations over the centuries.

"Good morning to you," he said with a thick accent. "The prince awaits you in his chambers. Please step into the elevator, which will take you there immediately."


The lift was similarly gilded, all golds and mirrors and crystal edging around the lift controls.

"Is the alarm button made of diamond?" Marv asked, rubbing it with his finger.

"They're not short of cash," Furey said. I saw she was rubbing the shoulder where she'd been shot back at the compound.

"How is it?" I said.

"Better," she replied. "It'll be back to normal in another day or two. I heal fast. I'm just not used to such primitive medical technology."

"This time," Marv said, "let's try to leave in a less action-packed way, right? Is everyone cool with that?"

"Fine by me," Furey said, rotating her arm in its socket.

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