Short Stories 366:242 — “The Locksmith’s Dilemma,” by Rhondi Salsitz

coverOkay, this next tale from The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis could have been written directly for me, frankly. Rhondi Salsitz pens a tale around a trio of characters: one is an investigator for the station, the next is a Bhest, a very recalcitrant alien species who is a master of opening things (be it locks, puzzles, or cyphers), and the last is a sentient mechanical/technological being capable of interfacing with the locksmith. The investigator is asked to do a “Wellness Check” on the locksmith by his family back on his home planet, who wish him to return (theirs is an endangered species). The locksmith is opening some likely stolen objects for some not-so-legal customers for credits he sorely needs. The being is helping him, unaware that the credits are to maintain her independence.

The three characters collide in a unique place-and-time situation, and the weaving of the locksmith and the sentient technological creature is so wonderfully found-family/we’ve-got-each-other that I was instantly on board, as this sort of thing is like cake for me. More, partnered up with the “resisting family request because he’d rather be doing what he loves” and you’ve basically poured me a cup of tea to go with that cake, so I’m down. I wanted nothing but the best for the, uh, Bhest, and as danger lurks and things got out of control, I was genuinely worried for the guy.

Ultimately, like many of the stories in this anthology, things absolutely don’t go to plan, but there’s a layer of kindness revealed in the investigator, and while things might be bleak in the immediate moment for the Bhest and his companion, I was definitely left with the sense that the Bhest had the key to unlocking his way out of the situation, and that in time, for sure, things would be about as well as they could be. His odd partnership with a strange being is worth what he’s going to have to do, and so it will be done.

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