I’ve had more careers than I care to admit to. Intergalactic tax collector, street corner prostitute, acrobat, thief. My “collections” – of treasure, experience, and check-marks on my resume – are rather vast. So let’s just say that I’m a worldly woman, who’s seen a lot of weird stuff and pissed off a lot of people. Ending up in this barn on a doomed world is not entirely accidental by any means. Dumb luck mostly, some calculated risks, along me being me.

At the far end of the universal space-time continuum is a little half-frozen world covered in dense pollution and ruled by an aristocratic bunch of idiots. (I’ve made a lot of enemies in my time, hence this planet remains anonymous. Informed readers will know exactly what I’m referring to.) On the Bridgemist Glacier on that planet is a library. Not just any library – I know what you’re thinking of: books, ancient microfilm, digital information encoded on crystal, holographic repositories – this was the Library of Artifacts, Metaphysical and Otherwise. Being a professional retrieval artist, I’m drawn to places like this. Remember all those check-marks on my resume? A few of those are jobs, others are “jobs”.

So I got a tourist pass to the Library of Artifacts and carried around a tourist guidebook and camera as if I were there for sightseeing. I wandered the various above-ground and sky-bound buildings of the main campus, as well as the inner-glacial networks of halls and shelves. This place is way to big for any mortal to see in one lifetime, but after a few weeks of my rather extended stay on the planet I found what I was looking for.

You see, the Library is more like a museum for lost artworks of historical record-keeping value. Yes, there are the standard books and scrolls and scree-crystals in this library, but so much more. Tapestries from barbarian-era Earth, stone tablets from the water elves of Sector 8a76, pictographs from all over the universe in all forms of transmission.

And a child’s toy.

Well, toy is a generous term for this object. Yes, toy as in it’s fun to play with. No, child’s toy as in played with by a normal child. The unicorn children of Fae, in the center of the Andromeda galaxy, play with teleportation devices. Why this is I never could figure out – you’d thinking unicorn mothers would worry about their little ones teleporting off planet or into places they shouldn’t be. But apparently this is good practice for the unicorns, who are adept at the art of transworld and intergalactic traveling.

Whatever reason doesn’t matter for my purposes. That is, for the purposes of perfectly legal trade among universally recognized sovereign entities. I saw profit, and me being what I am, I masterminded the single best one-woman heist. Damn near got away with it too.

Until my former boss from the Office of Intergalactic Trade and Tariffs came looking for me.

To be continued…

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