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The Assignment

by on September 24, 2014

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. Mr. Stamper’s calendar was his pride. Every important event was marked in neat red letters, every anniversary labeled. He had his weekly routine too, meticulously worked out. Thursdays, for instance, were Supply Days. And so, every Thursday, he would pilot his small shuttlecraft to the spaceport, land it neatly in Shuttle Bay Four, and then march to a particular canteen where he knew the layout and the proprietor by heart. Mr. Stamper was much put out when he had to alter his routine, but it couldn’t be helped. One couldn’t ignore a summons from a lawyer.

Penny Sybil, fussing about with a pile of holo-pads on her desk, looked alarmed as the space otter loomed in her doorway. “Er, Mr. Stamper? Oswald Stamper, formerly of the-”

“Yes,” he said shortly, “What do you want?”

The attorney was a little offended. “Ahem. I have been asked by my client to make absolutely certain of your identity before I disclose any details of the matter at hand. It’s very delicate, you see. So, again, you are Mr. Oswald Stamper, formerly of the Space Otter Corps? If I might see some identification?”

Mr. Stamper hesitated. It had been a very long time since he had been associated with the Corps. The last time had not been pleasant. The bewildered words of his commander (ex) flashed through his mind.

I don’t understand this, We won, didn’t we? Stopped the meteor, saved the lives of every being on that transport, stopped the Kellthians from overrunning Alistair Prime? Why would you want to leave now? 

Sir. We broke Directive. We landed on a pre-warp world. We made unauthorized contact. We could have avoided it. 

So what? his commander had said bluntly. They’ll live. And they’ll be better for it. They’ve got power now they didn’t have before. Better lives. What  difference does it make whether we kept Directive or not? 

Keeping Directive means we do not play God, sir. We do not decide which planets should be…better.” 

Why the hell not? 

That last question decided things. He had left without reply. His ex-commander had never understood. He didn’t think Penny Sybil would either. With a sigh, he produced the faded blue card.

“Ah. Yes. You check out,” Penny said, blinking at the readout on her screen. “Well. I suppose you’ll want to know why my client wants you?”

“No,” said Mr. Stamper. “I only want to know what the pay rate is.”

Penny, flustered at the space otter’s lack of curiosity, produced a holo-pad and slid it across her desk at him. She usually did this part at the end of the client meeting, not the beginning, and the arrangement disturbed her plans. “Fine,” said Mr. Stamper, looking at the pad. “What do I have to do?”

Penny had a whole speech prepared, but she decided it would be wasted on him. She came right to the point. “It’s the Orb that Should Not Be Named. My client recently lost two ships because of it. We want you to find it.” She couldn’t resist a rhetorical flourish. “It belongs in a museum, you know!”

“Of course it does,” said Mr. Stamper flatly. “I assume you have some data on it already?”

Penny gave him a folder this time, not just an antiseptic holo-pad. There were real papers in it, some dating back to before the Corps. Mr. Stamper was unimpressed by the weight of history in his paws. “Shall I deliver it here then?”

“Oh, er, yes. Do please.” Penny was taken aback at his jump from the folder straight past finding the Orb, to the question of what he should do once he had it. She had thought the matter of finding it might require more questions.

“Very well.” Having gotten the information he needed, he rose, bowed, and promptly left, leaving Penny Sybil still unsure whether he had accepted the job or not. She hated dealing with space otters.


  1. another great example of your amazing style! I mean come on, a space otter! That image is great. Congrats!

    • C.S. Lewis got images of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood; I get space otters. Same difference, really.

  2. Do not question the Otter. The Otter knows best. The Otter will get your stupid Orb and most certainly does not need your assistance. Good day.

    • I think you’ve perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Mr. Stamper.

      • I do have to mention that if at some point in his story arc, Mr. Stamper does not say ‘Well, maybe I otter’ I’ll be a trifle disappointed 😄

      • I will also have to make sure Mr. Stamper has a romantic entanglement. It’s be nice for him to have a significant otter.

      • Ha! You get the WELL PLAYED trophy today sir, cos I just busted out laughing at my desk. Well done, indeed…

  3. Am I ever glad I read this at home instead of at work, because I laughed out loud. I was thrilled to see you worked that line in there. I hope he’ll remember not to name the Orb. It would be a shame to loose Mr. Stamper. What a great character!

    • I’m always glad when someone laughs out loud or has a spit-take in response to a story. 🙂 I don’t think Mr. Stamper will name the Orb; he’s got a lot of sense, he has, and knows what he otter do. 😀

  4. Space otters are the worst!

  5. Bravo for the return of Mr. Oswald Stamper! I definitely think he needs a significant otter…..when can we expect that story, Michael?

    • You never know when a significant otter might show up. Hopefully soon though, I wouldn’t want Mr. stamper to be…. otter time. 😀

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