Short Stories 366:193 — “A Thief By Any Other Name,” by Violette Malan

coverI do love a good grifter story, and in this latest trip to the interstellar supermarket in The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis, Violette Malan delivers exactly that. A woman who lives on the edges of legality on Plexis finds herself at the wrong end of a “negotiation” with a “Scat.” The Scat are often violent, definitely dangerous aliens often seen in The Clan Chronicles universe, but like nearly all the stories in this shared-world anthology, Malan give you more than enough to work with if your new to the universe. Claws. Teeth. Blackmail. Referring to humans as “soft flesh.” It’s pretty clear these are not creatures you wish to work with.

But, Graine ends up more-or-less blackmailed into doing a job: grab something that’ll be in restaurant and make sure it ends up in the hands of the alien in question. She’s not a thief, but a human is best suited to the task, and, well. She might not be a thief, but the skillset required isn’t exactly out of her reach. But it doesn’t take long for Graine to realize there’s more going on here than the attempted ruination of a recipe, and as such the grifter gets a chance to con the Scat who is attempting to con her. She just needs to do it in a way that doesn’t cost any of her loved ones their lives, including herself, or leave the Scat with any knowledge he’s been taken for a ride, either. So, do the job—without doing the job.

Malan’s story zigs and zags as Graine figures out more of what’s really going on, tries to figure out an angle, and then puts a plan in motion to make sure everything turns out well for her. The result is a really charming little caper of a tale, with a solid set-up, execution, and reveal that I really enjoyed. Plexis is a place where a lot of money changes hands among many alien races, and Graine was a great example of the kind of people often found in those environments. I was rooting for her from the get-go, even knowing she’d be the type to cheerfully grift me out of everything I had.

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