Friday, July 29, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 10: “The Odinian Job” • by Gustavo Bondoni

Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and peculiar things have begun to happen, and it all started about three weeks ago, in a bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t just warp the fabric of space/time, he completely bent it…

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

“The Odinian Job”

by Gustavo Bondoni

Weber’s Place was never too full, and tonight wasn’t an exception. Constable Jenkins spoke to Ingrid, the owner, while her free drink—job perk—rested on the bar. Every table but one was empty, and the couple at that table…

 “You want to steal what?” Kate asked in hushed tones.

“The payroll,” Rauno, her ex-husband, replied.

“You’re a special kind of stupid, aren’t you?”

“Just hear me out.”

“I did.” She clenched her teeth. “I heard you out when you said we should emigrate from Earth, because my engineering skills could make us a fortune out here. I heard you out when you said that we should quit Galactic Mining and go into business. And I also heard you when you said a tanning salon would be a good investment. You haven’t had a good idea in your life. Now shut up because the constable is coming.”

Alma Jenkins walked over to the table like an old-West sheriff, someone who would allow no threats to the peace. She peered at them closely.

“You be good now,” Jenkins said ominously as she passed their table. “We don’t often see you two in here. Please don’t make trouble.” Then she walked out the door.

“She’s suspicious,” Kate hissed. “This is a dumb idea.”

“This one will work.”

“No way. The payroll is sent electronically, and the encryption is pretty much unbreakable, end-to-end.”

“Correction: it used to be unbreakable,” Rauno replied. “There was a problem with one of the repair drones, and they had to drop the encryption because the replacement drone isn’t up to standards. There’s a new one coming, but in the meantime, there’s one payroll transmission that we can intercept and modify. We don’t need to steal it all. One percent would be enough to keep us going for the next five years.”

“Do you think there won’t be anyone at Galactic checking on that?”

“There won’t,” Rauno replied. “Everyone is busy fighting the Church over the closure of Mine 17.” Then he played his trump card: “And the transmission arrives just two hours before the transport to Trinity is due to take off. I booked seats.”

Kate sighed. She didn’t have a better idea.

She knew why he was telling her this, six months after the breakup: he had the hot tip and needed her expertise. Dammit.

* * *

They emerged from the abandoned tunnel into the cold night.

“Is the drone ready?” Rauno asked.

“Yeah,” Kate replied. The remote-control helicopter lifted into the sky. “Get in your spot.”

Rauno needed to position himself on a small hillock whose location was precisely mapped and activate a laser beacon to allow the drone to position itself. His one job was to press the laser activation button. Not even Rauno could screw that up.

At least she hoped not.

He reached the hilltop, silhouetted against the night sky. She smiled: he made a perfect target up there. Kate fantasized that she was in possession of a high-powered sniper rifle.

Then she shook her head. It was time to get started.

She blinked a flashlight in his direction.

A few moments later, the red light on Galactic Mining’s drone turned green; it had found the beacon and spread an ultra-light reflective structure made from solar sails. The ten-meter dish would block the message from Galactic.

The drone’s computer would then analyze the transmission, redirect one percent of the transfer and then retransmit the data. It would take ten seconds, and a new timestamp would verify that all was well if someone investigated.

She checked her watch. Done. Time for phase two.

The drone emitted a series of clicks and cries that reminded her of birdcalls but were actually the mating calls of the female of a particularly dangerous form of local wildlife.

Or at least she hoped so. The volunteer researcher who’d told her the local predators she called night razors hunted in packs and used scent and sound to communicate was too busy to share her findings with anyone else.

This was the riskiest part of Kate’s plan.

“What’s that?” Rauno shouted.

She shook her head silently. Someone out for a hike, or late getting back might hear him.


She moved further into the shadows. According to her contact’s brand-new, unpublished research, the pheromone spray she’d applied to herself should keep her safe, but one could never be too sure. It was the first time anyone had tried it.

“Kate, where are you?” Rauno’s shouts were becoming desperate now.

She understood his fear: there was movement in the night. Dark shapes scuffled and whuffed.

“Kate, there’s something coming. Is that you?”

She would be safe while the animals were distracted with the chase. The drone would smash into the rocks. No one would know there had been a crime until after she left.

She hated to miss the look on Rauno’s face when he realized that she’d sent a pack of predators at him, but at least the proceeds from this heist would keep her going for the next ten years.

Weird that he’d turned out to be good for something after all.

Now, to run. The next transport lifted off in two hours and she’d wanted to be on it, even though she’d paid a steward to list her as a no-show.

* * *

As long as the guy kept yelling, Alma Jenkins knew there was hope, even if no one had ever walked into a pack of Odin III’s predators and emerged alive.

She jumped out of the buggy and ran up the path, the reek of wild animals strong. Two men she’d deputized when she heard that the two losers were reported heading towards the hills ran after her. They carried high-powered portable lights.

She also carried flash-bang grenades, harmless noise- and light-makers to scatter the animals long enough to grab the idiot and get the hell out of the area.

“Where are you?” she shouted.

“Over here!”

The night turned silent. The pack wasn’t gone: it was listening, ready to pounce.

She lobbed her grenade short of the voice to avoid hurting anyone. She and her men looked away and covered their ears.

The sound was still deafening.

Jenkins held up her hand. “Wait. Listen.”

Soft, high-pitched screeches sounded from up the trail, and then a rush of bodies moving away.

A whimper remained, a sound like a crying child.

“Move,” Alma ordered.

They found a man in fetal position, his hands over his ears.

The deputies carried him down the hill and dumped him in the buggy.

Alma drove until they reached the edge of the colony, then turned to Rauno. “What the hell were you doing out there?” she said.

“Running from those things.”

“Where’s your wife?”

“Not here.”

She rolled her eyes. “How long have you been here?”

“Four hours.”

“Four hours? You survived four hours with those things chasing you?”

“I climbed a ledge. Thank you for saving me.”

“Saving you?” Alma said. “I’m arresting your butt. I knew you were up to something that night at the bar… and you’re going to tell me what.”

In the distance, the huge pillar of fire from the launch pad painted the mountains orange.

“It makes no difference now,” Rauno replied.

Alma understood. She called the launch pad and asked whether Kate was on the flight.

“The pad says your wife no-showed. We’ll find her.”

“Not my wife anymore,” he replied. “She’s too good for me now.”

Alma knew she’d find out what he meant, eventually. And she suspected she wouldn’t like it when she did.


Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Test Site Horror (2020). He has also published two other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019) and Jungle Lab Terror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
His website is at


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Pete Wood said...

This is a great story and @#$#$!!! it deserves a comment.