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Friday short story time: "JS-90701"

Good morning. Another week, another Friday story. I’m a little annoyed I didn’t notice Friday was April Fools Day when I wrote it, as I’m sure I could’ve come up with something. Alas, it came to me too late to produce a new one. (It was about midnight last night.)

Anyway, as mentioned in yesterday’s Script Frenzy blog post, my frenzying may stop me from posting these stories in the next month or so, although I will still give it a go. But if not, you could always read the entire archives.

Or, if you are really desperate for more short stories in the near future, I might have something interesting to declare here next week. Maybe.


By Nick Bryan

Well, my name is Peter. I am in my room, with the lights on, the heating turned up and a couple of cereal bar wrappers on the floor. I don’t have a girlfriend, a flatmate or even a pet. So there is really nothing else here, except for JS-90701.

I work somewhere anonymous. I don’t do anything interesting, but sometimes they carry exciting things past me. The security is amazing; you’d think it was the army. In fact, perhaps it is, I wouldn’t know. They are all in suits and shades, rather than khaki browns, but who knows what the military fashion is nowadays? Anyway, sorry, my point: they carry these containers past, flanked by machine guns.

Sometimes they’re big, and other times very small. And every so often, the security men stop for a breather and a dump quite near cubicle. There are often seconds when the stuff is unguarded, and I don’t think it’s in the arc of any security cameras. A foolish mistake, really.

You sound like a bright girl, so you might be able to guess where is headed. I managed to swipe the box, and I really did expect a gun barrel pressing into the back of my head at any moment. Or perhaps they’d forego the formalities and shoot me there and then, I don’t know. It depends how valuable this is.

It’s not as heavy as I expected, which is handy. I was back at my desk, sitting calmly, before they noticed anything. Of course, I was a pretty obvious suspect, but this is the one part I had planned. My computer opened easily. Most people, especially ones who didn’t have to use them much, tend to see them as a single solid box.

Of course, it was always possible that the grunt who searched my desk would have been the one who understood there’s enough empty space inside a computer to hide the box. But he was exactly as I’d hoped. I was frisked, charmingly, my desk was turned upside down, but my computer was not opened up. Lifted up, but kept closed.

I had to throw it out of the window to get it out of the building, of course, as we were being searched on the way out, but retrieving it and running home was painless. And here we are.

It says “JS-90701” in stencilled type on the side. It is metal, barely bigger than my clenched fist and with a blinking light on the side I half-expected it to contain some futuristic homing device, bringing helicopters over my house within minutes, but there is no chopping yet.

Now, I know we’re meant to ask for advice when we call your helpline, so I guess my question is this: What do I do with it now? I mean, I did it partly for the thrill, partly because I hoped it might be profitable, but I can’t open it. How am I meant to list it on eBay? “Stolen military box, serial number JS-90701, mint condition UNOPENED!!!”?

Surely no-one would bid, and even if they did, I’d be arrested before they could collect their winnings. I’ve heard about the black market, maybe this is the sort of thing I am meant to sell to terrorists, but where does one find those people?

I’ve studied it in some detail, but can’t see an obvious catch or switch to flick. I suppose it’s meant to be secure. I’ve got a few tools, a hammer, crowbar, y’know, but what if it explodes? What if it’s booby trapped? What if it’s radioactive and all my sperm have already died?

Do you really think I should give it back? You’re not just saying that because you think you should? I mean, you really mustn’t worry, you can’t be implicated and I’ve made sure you don’t know enough to involve yourself. “Peter” isn’t my real name, and you won’t find anything if you google “JS-90701”. Trust me, I’ve been trying for hours.

But you really mean it? Well, I guess I could. Not walk up to them, obviously, that’s fucking suicide, but maybe leave it in reception or something? Try and wash my fingerprints off it first.

Still, it seems like such an anti-climax, doesn’t it? I mean, I wanted my life to have meaning and I’ve stolen an mysterious blinking metal box from a bunch of genuine Men In Black. If I can’t make any money, I owe itself to at least find out what’s in there, don’t I?

Yeah, thanks. I think I’m going to do,it, y’know? I’ve got my tools, there’s no-one else around, so it’s safe unless it’s a nuclear bomb. And let’s face it, it’ll probably be a rock sample anway.

Thanks very much for talking this through with me, young lady. If they listen back to this call in the future, and perhaps they will, I hope they take my advice and give you a pay rise. After all, you’ve definitely helped me, even if it wasn’t in a conventional way.

I’ll have to hang up now, I’m about to wedge JS-90701 under my bed so I can get a solid swing at it with the hammer. Take care of yourself, though.

You’re totally welcome to steal these stories and definitely shouldn’t bother emailing me if you want to use them elsewhere. April fool! (Was that funny? No?)


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