hesitated, eyeing the crumpled ball of old newspaper stuffed
between the books with suspicion. It hadn't been there when he'd
packed the box for transport to the mountain yesterday. In fact,
he was quite sure there were more books in the box now,
a fatalistic shrug, he pulled the paper out. And stopped again.
Something hard poked through the worn paper. Curiously, he tugged
at the wad of paper, uncurled it, and discovered a tiny ball of
crystal. No, not a ball. A... beetle?!
turned the tiny figurine between his hands, looked at it from all
sides. Definitely a beetle. The crude lamplight in his
undecorated apartment caused rainbow-colored sparks to scatter
off the multiangled facets. For a spellbound moment, he studied
the colorful refracted light, then winced and cursed as he
noticed his preoccupation. And cursed again, because he had
winced at his entrancement even now that his own door was safely
closed and no one was around to take advantage of his
Or was there? He
frowned. Who had slipped the crystal beetle among the books and
why? Maybe he wasn't as unwatched as he thought he was...
spent the next two hours frisking the small military apartment
from floor to ceiling and back for surveillance devices. He found
flopped down onto the floor next to the book box, leaned his back
against the bed, and studied the suspect beetle again, sitting on
the black cover of A. C. Clarke's Tales Of Ten Worlds,
still sparkling innocent rainbows. With a frown, Goose realized
he'd placed the thing on the only book Walsh had forced upon him
that he'd actually enjoyed reading.
tilted his head and noticed that the figurine also erupted in a
cascade of colors when he changed his angle of view rather than
moving the beetle itself. Then he frowned. He'd examined the
whole apartment, but not the figurine...
snatched it, clicked sharp claws against the facets, but the
tinkling it caused was that of crystal: pure and clear. He held
it up against the light, searched for anything embedded in it,
after a moment even risked using the energy of the still
odd-feeling implant to strengthen his vision even more than the
genetic engineering had already done.
The crystal beetle was just that. A piece of silver crystal,
delicately crafted with hundreds of facets to form the shape of a
running beetle the size of his fingertip, sparkling brilliant
rainbows across his plain, functional room.
sighed. He had to keep working if he wanted to have his moving-in
finished by tomorrow. Putting the beetle on the empty bedside
table, he began piling the books from the box onto the shelf
attached to the wall.
moment, he took ACC's book from the shelf and slipped it under
the beetle, making it a sparkling rainbow star in a velvety black
pool. A spot of uselessness in the iron functionality of his
Office of Cmdr. Walsh
daily mail... sir." The hesitation in Lt. McIntyre's
all-business voice was very brief. The commander knew she
After Sheela had
returned to her desk, he prodded the figure reflecting the lights
from his console, and pricked his skin on the sharp points of the
crystal spines. He sucked the blood droplet from his fingertip
and thought of Max' advice from long ago: "Remember,
he'll never do anything if you watch him. He's too cautious for
that – like a hedgehog. Whenever something comes close he
curls up and erects his spines, sometimes for months. He's still
more than a weapon. Help him to stay that way."
a moment, he secured the nail-sized silver crystal hedgehog next
to his monitor with a drop of glue. It was a reminder...
Thanks to S. 'Trivia' Blank and Elizabeth 'fatima' Bales for
their help with English.