I’m interested in finding a decades old science fiction short story that centers upon a rich guy trying to acquire a vase that is of incredible beauty. What stood out in my mind is by the end the story the thief hired was so taken by the vase’s beauty that he asks the guy if he may be allowed to come occasionally and gaze upon it.

I believe this is the same short story where the thief hired is some sort of ex-super soldier and when he shows up to the rich guy’s place he is stopped by the security. I just remember there is a moment where the security stops the super soldier and doesn’t want to do anything to offend him because he knows the guy is capable of killing him without any trouble.

1 Answer 1


Robert Heinlein's "— We Also Walk Dogs", originally published under the pen name Anson McDonald in 1941, and later collected in The Past Through Tomorrow and The Green Hills of Earth.

From the Wikipedia plot summary (emphasis added):

Much of the action of the story is not, as one might expect, about the science or engineering of creating an antigravity device to allow the conference to take place, but about how to persuade the world's leading physicist, a Dr. O'Neill, to undertake the job. O'Neill is too wealthy to be tempted by money, but longs to possess a museum piece, a Chinese porcelain bowl called "The Flower of Forgetfulness". The team have to find a way to get the bowl from its current location in a London museum. This involves the creation of a duplicate and some underhand tactics. When they receive it, they discover that it is indeed one of the most beautiful objects imaginable.
The anti-gravity generator is created and O'Neill, who is a recluse, requests payment. The team agree, but with one condition: that they themselves be allowed to view the bowl from time to time. Caught by surprise, he agrees and begins to regard them as potential friends.

  • 1
    The super soldier bit isn't present, but the rest is an excellent match.
    – Shawn
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 5:45
  • 2
    Excellent answer. This story came to mind immediately to me, as well.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 7:53
  • 3
    You might want to add that it's not a super soldier, but a super agency called General Services. They provide services from the mundane to the extraordinary; they also walk dogs, but in this case they're tasked with helping a government hosting an interplanetary conference on Earth, needing to find a way to accommodate the inhabitants of low-gravity worlds.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 7:57
  • You guys amaze me at times. Since Heinlein is my favorite author I'm a certain that's it. I'm a little bit embarrassed I didn't recognize it on my own, but I haven't reread the short stories quite as much as the novels, ex. Stranger In A Strange Land probably a dozen times by now. The super soldier bit must be a from a different story, but I have no more details, I just remember a tense moment when the soldier calmly waits and the security guy has an epiphany. Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 13:46
  • That story also includes a phone that the user can instruct verbally, then fold up and put in a pocket. :-)
    – FlaStorm32
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 22:18

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