Occasional Diamond Thief
in his footsteps, learn his “trade”? If you were the only one who knew,
would you keep his secret?
When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into traveling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be—it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him—but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.
Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks – Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.
But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.
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Note from the Author:
Hello, I’m J. A. McLachlan, the author of The Occasional Diamond Thief. I’m so pleased to be meeting you, and I’d like to thank Elsie for having me here today on her book blog, Elsie Elmore. This blog tour is part of my online launch of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and I’ll have something different at each stop – book excerpts, author and character reveals, vlogs, reviews and blog posts – for you to enjoy. You can find The Occasional Diamond Thief in ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NF9NYJM and in print: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770530754/edgescienceficti
And you can find me at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com
Short Story Excerpt:
This is Part Two of The Temporary Salarian Translator, a short story about Kia, the protagonist in The Occasional Diamond Thief – part one of this complete short story can be found on: http://bookloverslife.blogspot.ie/
(Kia and her friend Jaro, studying at the University for Translators, are acting as student translators at an inter-planetary event thrown by the Salarians at the Kandaran embassy. The event involves some nefarious gambling, including which of two desert girls dropped into a deep tub of water will drown first – although this event is taking place on the planet Salaria, it is portrayed on a giant screen in real-time at this event.)
I study the room. There may not be air conditioning, but there are blinking lights and signs everywhere, enticing the guests to the various tables and comp stations. Jaro squeezes my hand and then drifts away as we both circulate the room ready to translate for the guests. I see three or four Select wearing the blue and white habits of the Order of Universal Benevolence, discretely circulating the room. They’re here to keep everyone honest. That reassures me, since I personally have nothing to hide this evening, but I still avoid them. I stop at a table to watch an Old Earth game called Blackjack, played with actual cards which I have never seen before. I almost forget to look around in case anyone needs my services. When I do look up, I see a Salarian frowning impatiently and beckoning me. She is standing with two other Salarians and a Kandaran couple who already have a translator beside them, a girl from my class, Lerah. I hurry over, wishing I was paired with anyone but Lerah, a self-important girl who loves to show others up in class.
“You speak Kandaran?”
The Salarian who motioned me over can clearly see the Kandaran flag sewn onto my left shoulder beside the others—Salarian, Edoan, Coralese, Malemese, Old Earth English—but that isn’t really what she’s asking me.
“Yes, Goodsal,” I say, bowing my head to the degree a translator owes a high-born Salarian. My classmate smirks. As a student translator I should bend my head a fraction lower; however, the abrupt rudeness with which the Salarian addressed me could throw into question her birth position, which makes my bow correct.
“But I am only at the level of a proficient student,” I add, noting the glint of reluctant approval in her eyes as I confirm that I knew exactly how to bow to a Salarian. “If the subject is subtle with consequence, I will gladly summon a master translator for you.” All Salarian conversation is subtle; to state otherwise is an insult. All their conversations have consequences too, but to say that implies they are sensitive, easily offended, and unable to remain objective—all true, but never acknowledged. But “subtle with consequence” is the specific phrase they use for political or economic negotiations. Of course, this is not the place for that—I am merely complimenting her.
“You will do, Translator,” she says, complimenting me back.
I note the expression that briefly crosses my classmate’s face. She was probably addressed as “Student Translator”.
I’m perfectly happy to let Lerah translate for the Kandarans, even though she’s no better than I am in Kandaran. It’s a little annoying, though, when she jumps in to translate for the Salarians, too. We’re here for their pleasure, as our teachers remind us often enough. A good translator should be as invisible as a voice, leaving the focus on the original speaker. But annoying as Lerah’s obvious attempts to impress our hosts may be, any response from me would just make it worse. Lerah doesn’t get that; my courtesy only encourages her.
“I don’t like where this is going. There’s no need to insult anyone,” she interrupts me, one sentence into a complex translation. The Kandarans scowl down at her, ever alert for conflict. The Salarians stand frozen, automatically assuming they have been, or are about to be, insulted. The face of the one who spoke slowly turns red. None of them understand Lerah’s Edoan words, but the accusation in her voice is clear. I stare at her in shock, wondering if she’s accepted a drink from someone. I can’t ask; if she has had something slipped into her food or drink, asking would only set her off further.
“I was translating a subtle point, there was no insult given.” I feel heat rush to my own face as I’m torn between defending myself and trying to save the situation. Did I make the translation more complex than necessary? I intended to match the subtle play of the original comment. I notice, off to the side, one of our teachers watching us.
“I understand what was said. Perhaps you didn’t,” Lerah sneers. She begins her own translation. Behind my polite smile I am fuming. She’s making me look incompetent. I want to shut her up, physically if necessary, or at least tell her what I think of her, but I can’t defend myself without making the situation worse. One of the Salarians leaves, a bad sign; they live in communes of three and usually stick together in public. Even the two Kandarans are looking away, uncomfortable by our behaviour. I follow their gaze and find myself looking at the center screen.
One of the desert girls, the one with the thin lips, is in trouble. She thrashes in the water, striking out at the other girl, the one with the green eyes. Thin-lips doesn’t think she can make it, I realize. Her only chance is to drown Green-eyes first, so she will be pulled out. Green-eyes is unprepared for the hit, she goes under. Thin-lips pushes her down further, sinking underwater with her. I find I’m holding my breath until they both surface again, coughing and gaging on the water they’ve swallowed. Green-eyes yells something to the girl trying to drown her; it’s impossible to hear over the splashing water and the noise of the crowd, but the girl, Thin-lips, pauses long enough for Green-eyes to reach out and grasp her arms. Green-eyes has found the necessary rhythm of treading water, she’s able to hold them both up as she teaches Thin-lips to kick slowly, steadily churning the water below to keep her head above it. Letting go of thin-lips’ arms, Green-eyes shows her how to paddle. They’re both paddling now, treading water, staying afloat together. In front of the screen voices call out new bets while those who thought it was over walk away disgusted, cursing their hasty wagers.
I let Lerah finish her translation, forcing my face to relax. When the Salarian glances at me I nod to let her know Lerah’s translation was true to her words. Inelegant, perhaps, but not incorrect, I tell myself as I let it go. We are not opponents, Lerah and I, as we navigate the flow of understanding side-by-side. It isn’t easy, though, when Lerah looks so pleased with herself.
The Kandarans and the two remaining Salarians make a few final comments before moving away, releasing Lerah and me from our duty. I walk away without a glance at Lerah, or our teacher. If he’s observant he’ll understand what happened; if he isn’t, I won’t improve my grade by arguing.
Across the room, I see Jaro translating for an Edoan and three Salarians. Salarians use female translators, but since the Edoan they’re speaking to is male, they can hardly refuse a male translator. The Edoan probably doesn’t realize he’s insulted them, but I’m sure Jaro does. You’d never know it, though. Jaro’s face is calm and cheerful, full of his usual charm and assurance. I watch for a moment, and see the Salarians relax. Then one smiles. Jaro continues his translation. In a moment they’re all laughing. Laughing! I’ve never seen a Salarian laugh, let alone made it happen. Jaro gestures to the Edoan and says a few words which make him puff out his chest, grinning broadly.
I’m about to turn away when I notice Lerah approaching them…
… to be continued soon on: http://dalenesbookreviews.blogspot.com
“J. A. McLachlan is a terrific writer — wry and witty, with a keen eye
for detail. I’ve been following her work with interest and delight since
2003. In a world where young-adult fiction is booming, The Occasional
Diamond Thief propels McLachlan to the front of the pack.” — Robert J.
Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of FlashForward“The story is full of humor, danger, fun, and adventure. This is Science
Fiction anyone would love.” — J. Jones, VINE VOICE
“Flawless–The Occasional Diamond Thief was one of those rare stories
where I found myself hanging onto every word. McLachlan delivers a
fast-paced, unpredictable story with perfectly-executed twists.
Descriptions were succinct and epigrammatic with no room for boredom. It
felt so real, it was almost like being in the theater with a surprise
treat at the end. Much like the theater, once the credits have started to
roll and the crowd starts to thin, there was a snippet at the end that you
do not want to miss.” — BittenbyBooks.com
“Loved it! I haven’t read a heroine I loved this much since Katniss
Everdeen. McLachlan’s Kia is smart, tough and hilarious, and pairing her
with serene, forgiving Agatha left me laughing long after I finished the
story. The settings were vivid, the plot raced along, and the themes kept
me turning pages. McLachlan combines her love of science fiction, ethics
and good, old-fashioned storytelling in The Occasional Diamond Thief, and
the results couldn’t be better. I loved every page.” — Amanda Darling,
“J. A. McLachlan is a remarkable creator of worlds, a remarkable creator
of character, a master of suspense. In short, a remarkable storyteller.
You don’t have to be a young adult to love this book.” — Sheryl Loeffler,
Writer, A Land in the Storytelling Sea
author of a short
story collection, CONNECTIONS, and two College textbooks on Professional
Ethics. But speculative fiction is her first love, a genre she has been
reading all her life, and The Occasional Diamond Thief is her second in
that genre, a young adult science fiction novel, published by EDGE Science
Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. After over a decade as a college teacher,
she is happy to work from home as a full-time author now.