by euhal allen
part 1 of 2
Sidris had all the qualities of an agent but one. She could speak in seven tongues, run like the wind, use almost any kind of weapon and was almost as dangerous without any weapon but her hands and feet, and she was beautiful. Plus, being the daughter of one of the greatest philatelists in the galaxy, she was an absolute expert in telling true treasures from forgeries. And she wasn’t looking for a position as a clerk.
Sidris, being who she was, couldn’t give up even if the board of directors had told her that agents were not women. Now she had the proof to make those stuffed shirts listen to her.
The only thing that needed to be done now was to make them aware of what she had. And that was going to be the hard part. She had to live long enough to get their attention. That, with the four men searching the alley she was in, was not going to be a snap.
Her only chance was the steel pipe going up the wall down the alley. But she had to have time to get there and adjust her clothing so she could climb it. Carefully, quietly Sidris took the Chatterer out of her bag and set it to escape mode. Then she threw it in a power curve into the alley across the street.
Shortly there was a commotion in that alley that sounded like someone running and crashing into an intruding trashcan. The four men turned and the leader said, “She is over there in the alley across the street. She can’t get far in that tight Oriental skirt. We will have her in just a few seconds.”
Another one of the men, looking up and down the alley they were in, replied, “I heard that those MJP people have things that make those noises to draw people off in another direction. That could be one of them. I know I saw her come into this alley.”
His boss, laughing at such a thing, said, “You spend too much time reading your gadget manuals. She’s in the alley across the street. But,” he continued as he led the other two across the street, “if you want to stay here and miss out on your share of the reward for her capture, fine.”
The young man followed his boss halfway across the street, but, something told him that he should not leave the alley they were just in, so he turned back and re-entered the alley.
The whole scene had been short, but it had been long enough for Sidris. First she slipped out of her skirt, and turned it, Ardis hide out, and put it back on sideways. Then releasing what were now the center seams, she resealed them in the form of pants tough enough for mountain climbing and was soon shinnying up, the Ardis hide griping the sides of the pipe.
When she was three-quarters of the way up, while hanging on the pole with one hand, she removed her ice-needle gun and delivered a tranquilizer pellet into the neck of the young man still looking for her in the alley. Then she went up the rest of the way to the roof and made good her escape.
When the three other thugs came back into the alley, glad that their fourth had been alert enough to stay and guard the alley, the sight of their man slumped over a garbage can told them that she had gotten away and that their foolishness in the matter would bring serious repercussions from their employer.
Sidris, meanwhile, was making quick progress towards the spaceport and her tiny ship, stopping only for a short time to rearrange her dress so as to present to the port guards the same innocent, but shockingly pretty, young lady who had left them at their station only a few hours ago. As usual, it worked, with the added plus of a quick ride to entrance of her ship.
Once inside, Sidris immediately ran her fingers over a small seam in the aft cabin bulkhead and slipped the treasure she had found into the Invisi-Safe. Another touch from her fingers closed the unit and the safe again became untraceable.
Then she rushed to the control cabin and began to set the controls for swift departure, only to find that the ship had been force-locked by port security for a violation of port procedures.
Grabbing the comm unit, Sidris demanded to talk to the Port Administrator, threatening lawsuit and mayhem should the problem not be straightened out immediately. Working her way up the line of clerks, staff and officials took most of the afternoon and it wasn’t until almost evening that she found herself face to face with Port Administrator Djonda.
“What, Sir,” she said, “right do you have in locking my ship down when you know very well that I have not violated any port procedures. I demand immediate release.”
“But, Madam, you have violated a procedure. You have been charged with removing a Planetary Treasure without reimbursing the planet for that treasure. That is a very serious offence. Return the treasure and you may leave quickly. In fact, with the treasure in our hands, I will demand that you go.”
“I have no such thing. There is nothing on this world that you have made, or make now, that I have any interest in. Now stop this foolishness at once or I will send communication to the Earth Embassy and have them stop it for you.”
“I am afraid, my dear,” said a new voice, “that because I have had the courtesy of spreading a little joy to certain ones of Earth Embassy, I have been appointed Earth Liaison for this little problem. So, you have something I want and you will give it to me or you will sit in your little ship until you do.”
Sidris, gritted her teeth, and then, after calming herself, said sweetly, “Sir Rupert, how nice to hear from you again. What could I possibly have that you might want?”
“Cute, Sidris, cute. I can order your ship searched, you know. In fact, I am just about to sign a request for our friend, the Port Administrator, to do so.”
“No need for you to do that, Sir Rupert. I freely give you permission to search my ship if it will allow me to leave sooner. This thing as rather tiring and I, Sir Rupert, haven’t even had time for tea.”
* * *
Twenty minutes later the Port Administrator and Sir Rupert Ollney, with his people, were at Sidris’ ship awaiting entry. Sidris, wearing a conservative, but very feminine outfit, met them in the lock as they came in. “So good to see you again, Sir Rupert — Nice brown shoes, a startling affect with your grey suit — I trust you have brought your complete staff and all the equipment you need. It would be so dreary to have to do this a second time because you forgot something.”
“Yes, Sidris,” I have all that I need to find what I want in your little ship. Then, opening a folder with a check off sheet, he asked, “Shall we proceed?”
“By all means, Sir Rupert. But, if I had something to do it would be ever so much less boring for me.” Then, taking the folder and pen out of Sir Rupert’s hands, she said, “Perhaps I could check off the list here while you do your search. That way both of us will be very sure that everything possible has been searched.”
“Of course, Sidris, that is most kind of you,” Sir Rupert replied, “but a bit awkward at the moment since, if you notice, you are first on the list to be searched.”
Turning to the Port Administrator, she said, with her most dazzling smile, “You will have the pleasure of checking that off the list after the ladies you have brought along do their search. I do trust you will, in all fairness, not allow the search to continue without my presence.”
“Quite so, Madam. We will await your return right here.”
Sir Rupert, it now being his turn to be held up in his quest, argued, “She is just attempting to waste our time. She can rejoin the search in a few minutes.”
“Sir Rupert, while I have enjoyed the little kindnesses that you have bestowed upon me in this endeavor, the fact is that the young lady has been more than cooperative and that attitude demands respect. We shall await her return.”
Within minutes, Sidris and the ladies assigned to search her were back. “Nothing on her, Sir,” the leader of the team reported. “We were quite thorough. There was no way she could have hidden anything from our search. She is clean, sir.”
Sidris, taking back the check off sheet and the pen from the Port Administrator, said cheerily, “Shall we continue?”
Soon the search became a diligent effort on the part of all concerned, with Sidris carefully checking off each task as it was done and then having the Port Administrator and, at the Administrator’s insistence, Sir Rupert initialing each check mark to certify that she had been correct in marking each task as done.
Sir Rupert, usually one to do things quickly, was examining every possible seam in every part of the ship, looking for what only Sidris was aware of the possibility of.
Sir Rupert, turning to her, said, in his most ingratiating manner, “Do you know, Sidris, what I am looking for?”
“Something you say that I have taken from you, although I don’t see how that could be possible since I did not know you were even here until you talked to me from the Port Administrator’s office.”
“Yes, that, of course. But, are you aware of what particular type of hiding place I am searching for?”
“You mean an Invisi-Safe?” Sidris replied, puncturing Sir Rupert’s attempt to startle her into some indiscretion.
“Yes, quite right, an Invisi-Safe. Would you happen to have one on board?”
“Sir Rupert, this is your search. I am cooperating with you in it. But, don’t you think it unfair of you to expect me to just tell you whatever you want. Where is your sense of sport? Really, Sir Rupert, and just as I was beginning to enjoy the whole thing.”
Then seeing that the Port Administrator had no clue as to what an Invisi-Safe was, Sidris, using her most untechnical voice and manner, explained to him just what such a thing was. “I hazard to guess,” she added, “that Sir Rupert has dozens of them on his ship. He strikes me as very secretive, you know?”
Even a tiny ship, if it is rated for interstellar travel, is not really that small when it is being searched. There are all kinds of holes and crannies to be found, places that can hold small pieces of valuable cargo that can make the difference between profit and loss for ships used as freight carriers. Those holes and crannies, because all ships of any class start out with a common base, are always present on pleasure craft as well.
Sidris’ ship, complete with these compartments filled the task needs of the search crew for two days and still nothing was found. Sir Rupert began to consider the possibility that someone of a like appearance as Sidris had taken advantage of her presence to pull off an ID switch to shake him off their trail and push him in the wrong direction.
Then seeing what he had been searching diligently for, he called the Port Administrator and Sidris into the aft cabin and pointed to the tiniest of marks on a bulkhead and said, “There, Sir, is the Invisi-Safe. That little mark there is the only way one can be sure of an Invisi-Safe’s presence. I demand that you have our young lady open it so that I can retrieve my property and you can haul her off to jail.”
“Sir Rupert, did not the Port Administrator say earlier that it was Planetary Treasure? If that is so, how can it be your property?”
The Port Administrator, apologetically since he had come to prefer Sidris to the brash gentleman with the disgusting taste in attire, said, “I am sorry, Miss Sidris. But under our law Planetary Treasure, if it is of off-planet origin, can be ransomed by anyone who puts up the money for the process. Sir Rupert has paid the government over twenty thousand Egyptian Gold Shekels for the privilege of rescuing this particular treasure.”
“And, Sir, if you don’t find it, what happens to the money?”
“Don’t worry about that, Miss Sidris, it is quite safe where it is and is non-refundable should the Planetary Treasure be found not to exist. He only buys the chance of ransoming it.”
“In that case, Port Administrator,” said Sidris, “if you will hold Sir Rupert’s folder for me I shall be happy to open the Invisi-Safe.”
Soon the Invisi-Safe open, and empty, closed the search for the item that Sir Rupert was sure had been Sidris’ possession.
Sidris, after the results of the search had been duly recorded on the check-off sheet, requesting that each one of the two men sign it and certify that she was not in possession of the mysterious object. Then Sidris, after having made copies for herself and the Port Administrator, handed Sir Rupert’s folder back to him and escorted him and his company out the airlock.
Soon the little ship was safely in interstellar space and Sidris was becoming ill at the affects of too much laughter.