I was too late. They had already found what I was frantically searching for. By the time I traced my steps back through the dank and darkened maze of ancient alleyways, my pencil was already in their possession.
How could I have dropped it in the most patrolled corridor in this sector? It must have slipped out of my shoulder bag! Attracting the attention of this security sergeant and mid-level sector admin was the last thing I needed right now.
Quick to employ any underhanded tactic which could advance them to regional supervisor positions, both creatures were curiously suspicious. Drooling over the career possibilities, they carefully scrutinized my 9B pencil.
I’ve never really been able to decipher the dialect that security specialists speak, especially the one spoken by this rotund and toothy oaf. But its question maybe went something like, “Is this a good specimen?” I was surprised by the dexterity of its gargantuan fingers while caressing the pencil point.
The sector admin, who happens to live down the corridor from me—definitely the more evolved of the two—answered in a staccato birdlike voice, “Yes, definitely a perfect specimen.”
With large golden eyes agape and mechanized pupils spiraled open for high resolution inspection, the owlish creature mumbled in a more familiar dialect, “Ah, yes. Older graphite. Primitive, human-grade manufacturing. This pencil’s compound is derived from some long-lost region, this graphite could be extremely valuable to regional councils next-level dimensions.”
More specifically, the admin was sizing up the pencil’s monetary worth and what it meant for the creature’s own greedful future.
Definitely not convivial chaps on an afternoon stroll, this unlikely duo is not a pair of comrades who feast at the banquet tables together. They are just as likely to stab each other in the back as they are to bring doom to my life. Both of these beasts were dangerous; trained to quickly recognize any misconduct by a human. They examined my pencil with differing curiosities in their eyes.
They knew the pencil’s graphite was of significant value. But if they were aware of its true origin and how I came to possess it, they would realize that it is priceless. Fortunately, I had a handful of various graphite pencils carefully hidden in my dwelling.
Not to arouse suspicion, I slowly stepped backwards into the shadows, diverting my eyes to the oddments on display by devious street vendors lurking in the corridor.
On the way back to my dwelling, I did find something of rare value. I reached down to quickly grab a scrap of torn and weathered cardboard. Missed by the Collector’s sweep of the corridor, cardboard seems to hold no real value to other inhabitants. But I snatched it up and tucked it under my shirt; then secretly drew the owl and the oaf on it.
I carefully placed the cardboard sketch of these two corridor miscreants in a tattered cardboard folder and slid it between two wall stones in my domicile, hiding it from the intruding eyes of surveillance.