Andromeda, like many other people, was walking. But most of them, working their way along the ancient streets of London towards the City, were anything but the elite. Walking was cheap, and from Stepney is was an easier commute than the overcrowded trains from the outer reaches of suburbia. It cost nothing, and you got wet when it rained, and you were not tied by anything to a particular workplace, which was good because the bosses felt no respect for you.
Nobody talked, or read a newspaper, or played games on a tablet computer. In the bustling crowds you were along with your thoughts. Like Andromeda they wore sensible shoes, and walked steadily, and if the weather forecast had been bad they wore something practical and weatherproof over their office-worker uniform that had come off the peg at Asda.
You walked whatever the weather and whatever the time of day, and you worked unpaid overtime or got dismissed for inadequate enthusiasm. You came home tired and had to choose between discovering what was happening and getting enough sleep.
Andromeda didn’t have those worries, but she looked pretty low-class. She wore her Army Union combat jacket, and while the camouflage pattern was different, and the badges meant something if you could read them, it looks like the army surplus of the lowest class of worker.
The well dressed man on the train she could hear passing overhead as she went under the railway and onto Cable Street might think he was responsible for huge risks, but she had risked everything, and playing in the ultimate high-stakes game, amongst the mountains of the old North-West Frontier. Her father and grandfather had done the same, and they had come back alive because they loaded the dice. There was going to be a meeting later, with one of those Russian billionaires who seemed to want to buy England, and it was going to be different.
They hadn’t been to Eton, and they were old enough to have grown up in the Soviet Union, been conscripted, and been in the right place to make a fortune when State Communism collapsed. It all meant that they had to be hard men.
And they likely knew people like them, in the government of the new Russia, and if billions of dollars had vanished from the Winter Olympics, they likely knew exactly where it had gone. London was nothing like Afghanistan, but she was a troubleshooter for Stepney Estates, and she would not hesitate if the troubleshooting needed live ammunition.
Though that was not a good answer for the streets of London.
Stepney Estates owned an office block close to the bragging platform they called Canary Wharf, and if you wanted to see Money Launderers, you could easily spot the logo of one world-spanning bank which had managed to survive the mistake of getting caught. She could stand at her office window with a pair of binoculars, and what the crowd streaming into the DLR station on the far side of the old dock, and she knew she was seeing crooks.
She knew she was seeing a lot of people who ignored their suspicions for the chance to come back to work the next day.
“I would,” she announced to Lydia Walton, “Go back to the Spontoon Islands and volunteer to shoot somebody, if this week got to be the usual.”
“Boris Golitsin isn’t that bad, surely.”
Andromeda transferred her Fairbairn-Sykes from the sleeve-pocket of her combat jacket to the scabbard under her skirt. “I am sick of hearing about hard-working people as an excuse. That bastard wants to treat us like mushrooms.”
“So why did you come here?”
“Gunny is family, and he’s on our side. You know he’s different. Would you run out on him?”
“If somebody went after my family…” Lydia stopped. “If I told him what was happening, I suppose he would tell you, and you would be leaving London one step ahead of the law.”
Andromeda nodded. “If it ever gets that bad, I can expect to spend the rest of my days on a tropical beach, selling ‘kiss me quick’ hats to tourists.”
“That almost sounds like fun.”
“If things turned that bad, they’d have my DNA on file. I would be on the watch-lists of every country in the world.”
Lydia nodded. “You tell me that, and I can see it happening, but they say they’re hunting terrorists, and they hardly seem to find any.”
“I admit I have worked with better people.” Andromeda walked across the room to her desk. “I swear you find better information with a Google search than that mob can get from tapping every phone on the planet.”
“You have to ask the right questions.” Lydia set a folder on the desk. “That’s the latest briefing on Golitsin.” Another folder. “And that is the final results on what the simulation team came up with. The Quants are scared.”