Friday, September 2, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 25: “In Triplicate” • by Gustavo Bondoni

“Put that over there,” Ridan told his visitors without looking up from the form he was filling out.

They were in his office, a windowless cubbyhole deep in the archive department of Galactic Mining’s Odin III HQ building. A flickering fluorescent light buzzed overhead.

“This is important,” Constable Jenkins replied.

He sighed. Everything was always important to the people who brought it in. They were always asking for things to be rushed through, given priority, or shown to someone higher up the food chain. They thought they were doing it for the good of the colony when, in fact, all they were doing was gumming up the correct functioning of the administration. “That’s why I asked you to put it over there. It will be processed correctly and sent to the proper place.”

“I mean it,” Jenkins said, her voice sharp. “You need to treat this as something important.”

“This isn’t something you can just leave lying around,” the man with her said.

He realized they weren’t planning on leaving any time soon, so he looked up for the first time since they’d entered. He hated having to look up… the form he was filling out was the one which requested the purchase of the new light above his desk. “I understand that,” he replied, pretending deep sincerity and concern. “I assure you it will be my highest priority as soon as I finish with this.”

Ridan recognized the guy with Jenkins: Daraja. They called him The Machinist, and he pretty much kept himself to himself. It was just Ridan’s luck that the guy had decided to come into his office on the one day he wanted to socialize.

“That tech is extremely critical,” The Machinist said. “It’s not just a question of money, it’s a question of changing the galaxy forever. Not only the way humanity lives, but the way the galaxy actually works.” He looked to Jenkins. “This is way above this office’s capacity to deal with effectively. Hell, I think it’s way above Galactic’s pay grade. We should talk to the Colonial Council.”

Ridan said, “You don’t work for the Council. More importantly, the Council doesn’t have any way to get your package off the planet.”

The man glared. “You don’t seem to realize how delicate this is.”

“Of course. That’s why you brought it here. I understand. I will make certain it gets processed correctly. That’s what I do,” Ridan replied.

The man clearly wanted to argue, but Jenkins put a hand on his shoulder, and he left in a huff, kicking a box into the air and scattering paper everywhere as he went.

Ridan stared after them, shocked. How could they leave without getting him to sign the receipt?

He returned to his form.

* * *

Two days later, the box’s turn came around.

Ridan hefted it and glanced at the paperwork. To his surprise, the constable had used exactly the right form. Form 304C: Expedited High-Security Storage and Delivery to Galactic Sector Office.

To his utter lack of surprise, she hadn’t bothered to fill the form in correctly. Scrawled on the first page in bright red marker pen were the words ENCLOSED IS AN ALIEN TELEPORT DEVICE FOUND IN THE MINES. DO NOT PLAY WITH IT. GET IT TO THE LAB AT HQ PRONTO.

He sighed. If he tried to forward the box with that attached, it would get flagged and returned to him with a well-deserved reprimand.

Ridan wondered whether to call Constable Jenkins back, explain the situation to her, and demand that she return the box with the correct form in triplicate—one of which he would then sign and leave in her care as a receipt.

He decided against it. If he did that, he would have to admit he was just getting to her box now even though he’d promised to expedite it.

Besides, he was much more tempted to do something he’d never done before: fill out a Form 304C.

He navigated the form selection menu and entered the Transport and Archiving submenu. His heartbeat quickened: he was about to enter a menu he never navigated. Only certain people were permitted to access some requests. He clicked on Expedited Transport (High Security).

You don’t have access to this menu. Please indicate reason for request.

Fingers trembling, he selected: Form Incorrectly Filled – Principal is Supervisor-Level Employee.

Access granted. Delivery must be accompanied by form 722E.

“Yes!” Ridan said. “I’m in!”

He began filling in fields.

The date. The person who needed the delivery. The size, color, and weight of exterior packaging.

This was going incredibly well.

Input description of item in package.

The question brought him to a screeching halt. It would be simple to input what he knew: One Alien Teleport Device.

But that, though perhaps true to the letter of the form, would not be true to its intent. The point of that field was to get a usable description of the item within. A description good enough that people could identify it.

He needed real information. What shape was the item inside? Did it have visible controls or buttons? What color was it?

That, though, would mean opening the box. A serious no-no.

He looked back at the form and began typing. One. Alien. Teleport. Dev­–

He couldn’t do it. The form would be wrong.

Ridan glanced furtively at the door to his tiny office. No one was visible in the hall beyond, so he got up from his desk, retrieved a pair of scissors from his supply shelf and attacked the tape around the box.

There was quite a lot of it, but he got it peeled away.

He opened the lid and smiled.

“It’s red,” he said to himself. Knowing it was much more efficient to do all the research now, before sitting down, he turned the thing over.

“Approximately apple-shaped,” he muttered. “No obvious buttons. Perhaps the whole thing is a control surface.”

Ridan swiped his finger against the surface of the apple-like object.

The office disappeared, and he found himself orbiting a planet, still holding the apple.

Without a spacesuit or any way to breathe.

Ridan desperately swiped his finger against the same surface, but nothing further happened.

He didn’t last long.

* * *

Marina sat at the desk that her missing predecessor had occupied. She hit the “W” key on the keyboard—it was the key she always used to start a sleeping computer, W for “wake”—and felt the warm glow of familiarity as the Galactic Admin Form menu came up.

“All right. First order of business. Missing persons form. Here we go,” she said.

She began to fill in, from the Constable’s report, Ridan’s name and employee number.

One field brought her up short.

Were there any witnesses to the disappearance? it asked.

“It’s a disappearance, you don’t have witnesses,” she said to the empty office.

But she needed to put something in the field. You couldn’t leave it blank unless there was a specific instruction as to when it was acceptable to do so.

Then her eyes fell on a cat. It shouldn’t be there. She would have to remove it. But it had been there when she arrived.

It might solve her problem.

One cat (possibly), she typed into the form.

She printed the form out in triplicate and signed each copy. She put two in the outbox and one in her files.

“Good. Now I can get to work.”

She took the first box in her “In” pile and sighed. It was accompanied by form 117U when any idiot could see it should have been sent through with 114T.

Her message app pinged. She glanced down at the name. Daraja… The Machinist. He’d been sending her emails about some device. She shrugged. As long as he insisted on sending emails, he would get no response from her.

If he filled in the correct form—97F—she would happily put it on her to-do list.

Marina knew she’d get to it eventually.



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



Pete Wood said...

If you have ever had to wait in line at the DMV, has Gustavo got a story for you. A great read!