“Earthlings aren’t that stupid, are they?” asked Vimii. Bent over her workbench, her ears hung down, hiding her eyes.
“They’re just too self-centered to consider the possibility of sentient intelligence outside of their planet.”
Bylii walked toward them from the nav console. “Quit talking and get the job done. I don’t want to be here long. Their intellect isn’t intimidating, but their size is.”
Bylii had parked the ship 700 Nam paces, two meters in Earth terms, from the warehouse, in a deep lawn near the path to its rear entrance. The three thieves headed out with laser rifles, two levitation rigs and a cart. The grass reminded Bylii of the forest on Nammai. Bylii’s nose twitched at the end of his prominent snout. He hugged the rifle to his muscular torso with his suction-cupped fingers. His eyes darted all around, watching for insects.
They squatted by a dumpster. No guards in sight.
Cykii pulled his scope from his pocket and trained it on the security cameras pointing toward the door. “The camera’s lowest point is 16 Nam-lengths above the ground over the threshold.”
“Good,” said Bylii. “Let’s go.” They ran for the door and rolled under it, over the weather-stripping, leaving the cart outside.
They found the Earth word for weeblii stamped on the side of two boxes in the row of pallets nearest to the door. Cykii set up the magnets for the first levitator. Vimii found a box of smocks and set up the other levitator in a far corner of the room, near an inner door. She keyed it to her remote. Bylii retrieved the collapsible handcart and a box cutter from his pack. He unfolded the handcart, and stood on it to reach the bottom box.
“It’s ready,” said Cykii. Bylii nodded to him. Cykii threw the switch on the magnet array. It would be tricky getting the stuff out before the box caved in from the weight of the box above it. Freeing the first packet within was the hardest. All three of them pulled and pulled. Between Bylii and Vimii, Cykii pushed on the box with his booted feet, his hands still pulling on the packet inside. Bylii felt the pack shudder. It slid free, and Cykii’s momentum hurled him back into the array’s field. He rose four Nam-lengths into the air and settled back down to just two Nam-lengths above the floor. His surprised look changed to a smile. “I just wanted to test it personally.”
Vimii switched off the array and Cykii landed with a thud on his tucked shoulder and rolled.
“Good thing you know how to fall,” said Bylii. “Now get out of the way, so we can turn the field back on.”
They left the first packets on the floor to stand on, and positioned the handcart behind the field. From their perch on the first packets, they slid each succeeding freed packet into the field. Then Vimii manipulated the field with her remote to move them onto the handcart. When the first box was empty, they used a laser scalpel to collapse the box. When the second box was half empty, the floor vibrated beneath them. Their ears perked up and they froze. Footsteps!
Vimii touched a button on her remote, turning on the other levitator, just as they heard the inner door open.
Two sets of human footsteps sounded. Then they all held their ears as the female shrieked.
The male asked a question in an astonished tone.
The thieves watched the smock Vimii had levitated wave around near the ceiling. The female human took cautious steps toward the smock while the male hollered toward the inner door.
They finished unloading the second box, working as fast as they could. The smock kept the stupid natives occupied long enough for them to finish their mission.
Bylii and Cykii pushed the dolly while Vimii walked ahead, making constant sweeps with her eyes and her rifle.
Vimii’s ears flew up in a gust of wind created by something soaring over the grass above them. The something’s landing smashed the grass to her left, so that the ends of the blades came to her neck. Bylii and Cykii left the cart and stood behind her.
The creature leaned its head down and grazed. The sound was deafening. They backed away with careful, quiet steps.
Just when Bylii thought they could make a break for it, the creature stuck its head through the blades, its bulbous compound eyes sticking out on either side of its green head. Saw blades filled the creature’s jaws. Bylii froze. He didn’t even breathe. He tried to make himself think, identify the creature. Knowledge could save them yet. He noted the strong, long jointed legs, the straight wings and the antennae. Yes. A grasshopper. Herbivore.
“It’s just curious,” said Bylii.
Vimii let it touch her with its antennae, but when it opened its mouth to take a sample, she raised her infrared laser rifle and fired. The thing’s head boiled and exploded.
Bits of grasshopper knocked Vimii down. She twisted one of her ears with a tremulous hand. “Let’s get off this crappy planet.” She wiped grasshopper guts from her face and stood.
Bylii fetched her rifle from where it landed and handed it to her. They picked up their pace.
Cykii sighed and asked, “How much did you say this weeblii will get us on the Duliib market?”
“Enough to make us all rich,” said Bylii.
“How many doses is it?”
“Enough to keep twenty million old Nammai men happily humping for twenty years.”
Ann Wilkes‘ first book, Awesome Lavratt (2008, Unlimited Publishing), is a tongue-in-cheek space opera with mind control, passion and adventure, and lots of puns. Her stories have appeared in online zines and two anthologies. She lives in California’s wine country with her husband and youngest son (19). She says writing is almost a biological imperative. She writes SF because she’s very interested in peoples and societies: “I get a kick out of building alien worlds.” She writes mostly first contact and sentient non-humans pieces. Visit her on the web at www.annwilkes.com.