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The Diamond Job

by on September 3, 2014

He waited for an hour. Finally, his patience was rewarded. The guard meandered past, laser rifle swinging lazily alongside. In a few moments, the guard had rounded the corner and was gone. Seventy-three minutes would pass before the next patrol. A lot can be accomplished in seventy-three minutes.

He emerged from the shadows and padded unhurriedly to the door. Some of his colleagues in the Corps would have rushed up and blown the thing, but that was partly why he had left. He didn’t want to defend the galaxy from alien threats. What he wanted was very simple: a small, uninhabited little planet, where he could live in undisturbed solitude and swim in a quiet pool, like any normal mutant space otter would do. Unfortunately, it required a good deal of money to buy a planet, even a little one. That was the reason he had come to the Miranda Five Academy.

It took nine minutes to crack the lock. The combination was biometrically coded, so he had gone in the old-fashioned way, by slicing through the metal casing and delicately splicing the wires inside. The door hissed open and he slipped through. He ignored the deserted classrooms. All they had were blank computer screens, scraps of paper, and the occasional lost pair of scissors, seeming out of place in this advanced age. He wasn’t interested in scissors. What he wanted was in the rear of the building.

The Academy’s museum wasn’t the best in funding or attendance, but it had a few glories nonetheless. Its prime possession was the Virgo Diamond. The diamond had arrived all the way from distant Earth. It had also been part of the laser cannon on board the Earth star-cruiser Virgo. The ship had slashed its way across space in a blaze of glorious battle before being vaporized in the Nebula Disaster of ’93. The ship’s name alone remained, attached to the diamond by faded tradition. The Virgo Diamond had seen untold adventures, but of course he didn’t care for that. He knew one predominant fact about it: a trader on Verin Prime had offered him enough money to buy two uninhabited little planets in exchange.

The diamond was not unprotected. It had lasers, force fields, and two robot sentries with firing reflexes faster than any sentient being’s. The Academy builders had spared no expense, installed every technological marvel. The whole system even ran on dedicated power cells, so that if the Academy building itself lost power, the diamond would still be protected. He had spotted, however, the one weakness. The Virgo Diamond defenses still required some power. That meant they were vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse bomb, which he just happened to have with him. A favor, from his remaining friends in the Corps. A blue flash, and that was that. No more defenses. He didn’t even spare a glance on the dead robots as he reached for the diamond.

Then he heard a frightened squeak. He whirled. The students shouldn’t be awake at this hour. He thought he had timed their sleeping schedules perfectly. Apparently he was wrong. Little Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk stood gaping in the doorway, her tentacles quivering in alarm. “Who… who are you?”

His proton blaster was set on Level Five. A simple press of the firing pad, and that would be that. The Corps wouldn’t have hesitated. They wouldn’t have reported it, but they wouldn’t have hesitated. Yet another reason why he had left. “I’m with Maintenance. The defense system’s glitched, you see. I’m taking the diamond for safekeeping, then I’ll bring it back by morning once the system’s repaired.”

“Oh,” said Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk. She wasn’t quite old enough to understand lying. “If you’re with Maintenance, could you fix my nightlight? It’s gone out.” This was a grave concern for her, as she had been told stories by her older siblings of the terrifying humans that lurked in the shadows.

He checked. Thirty-two minutes. He had just enough time. “Sure. Why not?” He pocketed the diamond and followed her to her dorm. The nightlight took less rewiring than the security lock. Melinda, satisfied that the universe was right again, crawled into her pod and was asleep in seconds. He made it out of the Academy with eight minutes to spare, well within the buffer time he had allowed for contingencies. You never knew when you might need to aid a small squidling who was afraid of the dark.

 

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25 Comments
  1. And he has a soft spot for squidlings. They are so cute!

  2. Meg permalink

    “…any normal mutant space otter…” Hah! A mutant space otter! I love your characters. And he has a big heart — or at least, one that couldn’t kill Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk, who I now kinda picture as Cindy Lou Who. Except with tentacles. Another wonderful story, Michael. Is this part of a new series?

    • It will be, as soon as I can decide on a name for the main character. It’s harder than you think to find a name for a mutant space otter.

  3. Excellent. Love this! A space thief, making time to fix the night light. And great to Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk again.

  4. Having created Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk I don’t think you will have too much difficulty naming your mutant space otter. You seem to have a gift for it! 🙂 I’m really glad I didn’t read your story before I submitted mine – I might have had to rethink the weasel who wandered into my world if I had met your otter first. What is it with small rodent like creatures…..

    A well-crafted fun read – as usual. Love the squidling who is afraid of the dark!

    • I blame Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. He started this whole trend of small creatures in space…

  5. I might be a normal mutant space otter, because what he wants sounds remarkably what I would like out of life 🙂

    • Mine too. I mean, who wouldn’t like a small uninhabited planet of their very own?

  6. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    Thank you, oh, thank you for your nod to the Grinch. I was loving this anyway, but that clinched it.

    • I may have to bring Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk around for Christmas. The only thing is, to do a proper Grinch tribute, I would have to rhyme. What rhymes with Melinda Raxenpaxerflirk?

  7. Ah, little Cindy Lou Who Raxenpaxerflirk! As for rhyming, how about: jerk, smirk, quirk, work, berserk. I’m sure you could do an amazing Seuss with that name 🙂
    Love your creative worlds with characters who reflect internally in believable and recognizable ways. His disgust with the Corps anchors his character in my mind.

    • I wanted to distinguish him from, say, your average mutant treasure-hunting space otter. A bit of backstory felt like the way to go. 🙂

  8. An electromagnetic pulse bomb- handy to have! I don’t condone stealing, but I admit that I like this jewel thief with a heart 🙂

  9. A space-age Grinch! I love it!

  10. I always admire the casual tone of your stories, Michael. I tend to overthink every word, but your language has such an ease to it. Don’t suppose you’re teaching any classes on that? Your hero is very well defined by his actions. Immediately likable —space otter-ness and all.

    • You’re very kind. I’m not teaching classes, alas; I didn’t even major in English. Political science, that’s me. 🙂

  11. I want a mutant space otter! Though I’d settle for a sea otter, mutant or otherwise.

    Nice take on the prompts! 🙂

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