“My name is Sonasoda, and you are my author,” he said.
“Oh,” Dru said quietly. Then, before she could stop herself, she asked, “Is that your first or last name?”
Sonasoda’s face went a deep purple colour as his cheeks and eyes bulged. Dru flinched back, convinced he was about to strike her. Instead, he turned and walked away.
“I don’t know,” he said, voice deepened with anger. “This! This is my problem.” Sonosoda struck at one of the desks, emphasising his point before turning back.
“You never specified!”
“Ah,” Dru said quietly. “Well,” she brightened, “I always thought it sounded more like a surname, but I was just coming out a phase where I referred to everyone by their first name when I wrote you so I was never sure, but now I think on it, it definitely works better as a second name. Yes, so. Sonasoda-san. What d’you think?” Sonasoda nodded slowly.
“What is my first name then?” he asked quietly.
“If I had access to the ‘net,” Dru continued blithely, missing the danger in his tone. “I could do some research, perhaps on Behind the Name or Inner Sa-” Sonasoda clicked his fingers and Dru let out another yelp as the goon increased pressure on her arm. Sonasoda cocked and eyebrow.
“Or, y’know, um, it could, um, it could be... Tenchi!” Dru said rapidly, going for the first Japanese sounding name that popped into her head. “Yeah, Tenchi. Tenchi Sonasoda works, right? Right?” The Asian man gave her a nasty smile.
“For now.” He gave a wave and turned, walking back to his chair. Dru let out a breath as the goon relaxed his grip on her arm. Sonasoda sat back in his chair and reached into a pocket for a tiny, gilt box. He took a pinch of something from the box and, rasing it to his nose, took a quick sniff.
“That’s... That’s the snuff right?” Dru said, staring to understand what the man had said before about having a ‘half-life’. Sonasoda looked up. “I... I always thought you’d have snuff, but I never wrote it down, not even in my notes.” Now Sonasoda was paying her very intent attention. “It’s gold, right? With a blue enamel lid and, and,” Dru screwed up her eyes. “It has pink, no, red and orange flowers.” She opened her eyes. “It was my nana’s,” she added quietly. Sonasoda was leant back in his chair looking thoughtful.
“How did you know that?” he asked.
“Dude!” Dru said, forgetting herself for a moment in her outrage. “I wrote you! How d’you think I fracking know?” Now Sonasoda was leaning forward.
“What else do you know about me?” he asked. Dru stared. Crap!
“Uh,” she swallowed, breathing rapidly. “You, uh. You’ve lived on Mars for a while, but you weren’t born there. You were born on Venus. Your pappa drank, your mam traded, well, she traded you, your service, to the organisation in exchange for passage off venus, cuz gods know it’s a hell-hole, and away from him. You did odd jobs - an errand boy - who grew into a goon.” Sonasoda was frowning, Dru noticed.
“But! But, you were smart. You bossed the other goons about, organised them, and someone higher up noticed, put you in change of... Of the place where Gur- Er, the place you live,” Dru amended in a hurry. She paused, looking at Sonasoda’s reaction. He looked interested, bordering on enthralled. She took a chance.
“But quite what you’re doing here,” Dru flipped her free hand carelessly, “I really couldn’t say. You’ve got so much more interesting stuff to be getting on with back home. Giving orders, bedding whores. There might even be some kind of promotion in your future since Tepper and his piece of fluff are getting on nicely with acquiring that painting. Especially since you played that nice double-bluff and got Jarret to help them out.”
“Ooh, I did?” Sonasoda was riveted now. “How clever of me.” Thank god he doesn’t know I’m lying, Dru thought. None of this stuff’s happened to him yet...
“Yeah, and Jarett’s totally gonna turn on them,” she continued, “because you told him too. Never really liked his son anyway, very clever capitalizing on that by the way. Then he’ll probably seduce the girl and bring her back to you as a gift, cuz everyone knows how much you like a fresh girl. So, like I said, you’ve much better things to be doing, hows about filling me in? What’s a criminal mastermind like you doing in a grotty old reality like this?”
Sonasoda gave her an unconcerned look “A gentleman invited us to take retribution on our authors.”
“Wait, you knew you were fictional?”
“Of course,” Sonasoda said, but his eyes darted downwards. He’s lying, Dru though. This stranger must have told him. Which means they’re from our side. Who the hell did Protag piss off so much?
“And he never asked anything in return?”
Sonasoda cocked an eyebrow. “Should he of? He intimated we were doing him a great favour simply by being here. And rightly so. Who wouldn’t want the most powerful being in Sol helping them?”
“Wait, ‘we’? Who else moved over?” Dru asked, glad to finally be getting some answered. But Sonasoda frowned.
“Quiet woman!” he said standing. The mook behind Dru suddenly, and painfully, reminded her of his presence by wrenching her arm up. “You ask far to many questions,” he said coming over to stand in front of her again. Sonasoda held up a pen.
“And so to my retribution,” he began, but again Dru’s mouth spoke before her brain had caught up.
She pulled a face. “To make me write with a Bic? You monster.”