By Jo Davies
The guard was too attentive. My patience was wearing thin by the time he finished his slow circuit and wandered into the next room, but at last I had the exhibit to myself. I needed to act quickly. The majority of visitors were flocking around the bigger displays in the adjoining hall, but sooner or later someone would join me.
With my back to the security camera, I approached the central sarcophagus, forcing myself to saunter as though I had all the time in the world. If they reviewed the video, I wanted to look as innocuous as possible.
I leaned forward and pretended to read the information panel at the head of the exhibit. With a quick flick from one hand, I threw a pea-sized black probe forwards. It hit the sarcophagus with a soft plop and instantly attached itself to the carved cream stone. The tiny device gave a single blue flash before colour matching to its surroundings and vanishing from sight. I repeated the process on the other three sides, each time positioning myself between the security camera and the flash.
Next, I pulled out what they’d think was a smartphone and pretended I’d just got a message. I feigned reading, before tap-tap-tapping on the screen.
Just like humans do.
We’d studied the natives at length, learning their mannerisms and routines. Unlike other species I’d met, humans were delightfully predictable. It had made living amongst them much easier.
After a few more taps, the portal was primed. I breathed a sigh of relief. Tonight, when the museum was closed, we’d retrieve our Holy Empress.
Three thousand Earth years was a long time to be stranded on an alien planet. It had taken time to locate her and still longer to plan a covert retrieval that would not disrupt this planet’s complex culture and belief system. If anyone noticed the sarcophagus had been switched with a replica, they’d look amongst themselves for the culprit. For all their wonderful imaginings, humans still didn’t fully believe they weren’t alone.
A murmur of voices heralded a group of visitors.
“Oh it’s just another mummy!” A child whined.
I looked at the plump young human. It was a female, just half the height of the adult whose hand she gripped, but already the dominant one in the pack. Had my orders been different, I would have extinguished her on the spot for such disrespect. It would have provided an entertaining finale to my visit, but the Elders had been insistent on discretion. I suppressed the urge and walked away.
Ten minutes later, I reached the ‘out of order’ toilet cubicle where I’d set up a transport pathway. As I stepped into the field and felt myself pulled into the slipstream, I heard the sound of celebrations commencing above.
Jo Davies is a British writer. Her work has appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Spelk and New Flash Fiction Review. She lives in Berkshire and enjoys finding story prompts in everyday life. When not writing fiction, she works as an editor and publisher in the civil service. You can follow her on Twitter @wordsmithjo.