How's Uranus These Days

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young astronomy student is visited by a stranger from another world who has mistaken his transmission as a job application.

Submitted: August 15, 2017

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Submitted: August 14, 2017

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HOW'S URANUS THESE DAYS

By

Brian P. Baldwin

 

The side molding splintered under the force of the boot sending the door crashing inwards. I love doing that because we don’t get to do it as often as they make out on television.

“You broke the frame!” said my partner Frank looking as pleased as me.

I smiled while sweeping my hand across the entrance and bowed saying, “You just have to know where to put your boot My Lord.”

I caught Frank glancing at the impression on the door as he walked past me and into the small apartment. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. I could tell he was impressed with the mark I left, but he wasn’t the sort for any theatrics unless, of course they were his own.

We entered the main room, or that’s how I would describe it. Living rooms don’t usual y have an attached kitchen space, so main it was going to be. It didn’t take us long to tell there wasn’t much out of the ordinary here. If there had been a struggle, it must have been with words because there wasn’t much else to see. I looked over some junk that was on the coffee table while Frank rummaged through the front hall closet. We met up again in the center of the room each conveying general lack of interest.

I looked over Frank’s shoulder at the hallway behind him and asked, “Where’s the broad?”

He looked back over his shoulder saying, “Oh. I made her wait down in the lobby.”

It made sense to me, so I shrugged and headed towards the back rooms. We passed through a small dining area sparsely decorated with a cheap table in the middle with only a single bread crumb littered place mat set to let the user eat and watch TV at the same time.

“Hey Bob,” said Frank walking past me. “Why don’t I take the bedroom and you do the bathroom and storage?”

“Sure,” I replied still sour about us being on this detail. I asked him, “How long has this guy been missing?”

Frank was starting his check by taking a close look at the bedroom entrance and said, “About six days I think.” Frank took a moment to look back at me and said, “I don’t think we have to worry about anything else. No chance for this place being Stiff and Span right! At six days, we would have smelled this guy from the lobby.”

Frank and I came up together and he was good at a lot of things, but puns weren’t one of them. I let it go. “He’s probably on a bender in Atlantic City like I should be.” I said and headed to the bathroom. I love being a cop, but the one thing I can’t stand is finding suicides. No one likes that kind of shit and that’s normal. I just think I’m affected more than most. I’m always bothered by not being able to ask them why, and notes don’t make it any easier.

I checked out the bathroom, but it was so small my investigation consisted of sticking my head into the tiny room. Entering the storage closet the first thing I noticed was how much larger it was than the bathroom. I took notice of a pair of suitcases, a small and larger matching one so it didn’t look like he’d gone on much of a trip. I was just looking for clues as to where or even when he might have left. When I came back out I walked back to the main area and noticed on the table near the place mat was a stack of papers. I guess I was looking so hard for the little things I’d almost missed it.

“Hey Frank!” I called out skimming over the first page. “Come here!”

He walked in delicately holding a golf club just below the grip doing his best not to get any prints on it. “I found this on the bed. It’s real messed up and the side table lamp is broken. Might a’ been swinging it at someone.”

“Could’ve woken from a sound sleep inspired by some vivid dream on how to fix his swing and couldn’t wait to try it.”

Frank looked down at the shiny metal shaft as though actually considering my idea.

I shrugged and then said, “Look, you got to see this.”

Frank came to my side looking over my shoulder and said, “What is it?”

“It’s some kind of letter,” I said laying the page back down on the others. It might be something private for his girlfriend, but at this point anything we found was a potential clue, or even evidence. I began to read it aloud.

“To whom it may concern.

“I’m leaving.

“I had to write this for two reasons. First, no one is going to believe it and I’m still not sure if I do, but I had to tell someone and there isn’t enough time for any other way, so this will have to do. Secondly I have to tell everyone what’s happened to me. I can’t leave knowing my only legacy will be some crappy T.V. show about mysterious disappearances, or unsolved crimes. I want to write this so the mystery is solved right now.

“I was sleeping deeply after a long day. There was so much one my mind. Like my thesis being overdue and on the second extension, putting in extra hours at work while trying to sneak in some work on my thesis at the same time. This was one of the few nights I had to myself and I used it for long awaited sleep. I don’t remember waking up right away. I can only remember having the impression that someone turned on the lights for a moment. I took my time sitting up, just a little at a time thinking there was someone at the end of the bed. I thought it was Kim standing by my dresser, but I was jolted to consciousness realizing she wasn’t staying over,

“Huddling up to the head board I shouted, ‘What the hell are you doing here!’

“The stranger stayed in the shadows and said, ‘This is hardly the way to make a good impression,’ He had a strange accent I couldn’t identify. It sounded more like an echo.

“Running out of room I shouted, ‘What do you want!’

“Staying in the shadows the figure moved slowly and gracefully around the bed. ‘I don’t know how you do things here, but we would expect you to behave in a more professional manner.’

“Jumping out of the opposite side of the bed and putting my back against the wall I started inching my way down in the direction he had come. I got to the small window thinking of it as a potential escape route until remembering the five stories to the ground. There was nowhere to go so I panicked and shouted, ‘I don’t have any money!’

“He said, ‘Oh,’ then paused and continued with, ‘I think you’ve misunderstood. There’s no fee. Besides, your currency would be worthless to me.’

“I tried to buy some time by saying, ‘Oh really. How about that?’  We were opposite each other now, only the bed separating us. Having it there provided some comfort, but now I wished I’d bought the king size. ‘I don’t have any valuables or anything like that either.’

“For a robber he was very calm and said, ‘I’ve already explained that matter.’

“I shouted, ‘Then what do you want!’ while stumbling into something behind me. Reaching back I felt the soft leather of my golf bag and I started searching it for a potential weapon hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“It didn’t seem like he was watching me and just went on saying, ‘I have questions that you must answer. Keep in mind our decision weighs heavily on both the answers you give and your honesty. Your world is renowned for deceit.’

“I heard him I just wasn’t paying close attention. My hand slipped over the smooth metal surface of the club I was feeling for. Pulling it out in a blur, I extended it across the bed trying to look as menacing as possible. The five iron, the club of choice when fending off intruders, felt strong and powerful in my hands. The club head was quivering from my shaking hands. I wasn’t sure if I could actually hit someone with it. ‘Come any closer and I’ll knock you into next week buddy,’ I said stepping out from the wall trying to make sure he knew I was serious.

“He didn’t move or even seem worried. There wasn’t much light but there was just enough to make out some of his face. He was wearing a loose fitting robe made from a silky looking shiny material. Watching him slip his hand casually into the folds of his robe I started to realize my worst fears. He wasn’t bothered by the five iron because he had a gun. It was the only reason he could be so calm. While his hand was in the robe searching for it, I had a chance to leap across the bed and brain him with my club, but these thoughts took so long it was too late. Now finished arguing with myself I watched his hand come back out like a slow motion scene in a movie.

“Instead of a gun he had some sort of gadget a lot like a small tablet. His fingers danced over the interface bringing it to life. Peering into it intensely his face was bathed in an eerie cool blue light. He lifted his head saying, ‘I still don’t understand.’

“For the short time the light illuminated him, I saw something just wasn’t quite right. I think I had been more interested in the device causing the light than what it was showing me. I decided it was a fancier type of electronic organizer, but now I was faced with trying to understand what kind of burglar brings something like that with him. I thought maybe he was some kind of high tech thief, but that still left the dilemma of trying to figure out what the hell he wanted from me.

“The stranger said, ‘No. I’ve checked it again,’ while looking into his device briefly, ‘my companion says that what you said is not possible. In fact it says there is a good chance your statement could be construed as a threat.’

For me, that clinched it. I could tell he wasn’t a criminal, but he could be a nut. ‘Just try and come closer and I’ll show you what I mean,’ I threatened him and tried to drive the point home by swinging the club as hard as I could, but my demonstration destroyed my reading lamp.

“I still couldn’t see that well but I was sure he looked offended and he said, ‘This is not the way to make a good impression.’

This guy is crazy I thought and shouted, ‘I just want you out of here!’

“I got the feeling he was disappointed and he asked, ‘Don’t you want to at least her about the job?’

The job, I thought, what was this guy talking about? That caught me completely off guard. You see I’ve been applying for a lot of different jobs, some of them not even close to my field. It’s tough out there these days and being only months from my PHD I hoped someone might want to take advantage of my education; someone should. I didn’t really care if the job was even remotely related to astronomy as long as there would be steady income. The problem is to having someone slip into my home late at night wasn’t what I’d been expecting. I mean it’s not like I applied to the CIA or something like that. But he had my interest and the fear had been replaced with sudden curiosity so I asked, ‘What job?’ I let the five iron relax a bit.

“He went back to his little device saying, ‘Ahh! I see you are interested now.’

“He held it closer to his face this time and now I could see what was wrong with it. The thing I couldn’t quite see the first time, but now it was so clear to me. ‘Where are your eye lids dude?’ And I couldn’t help myself. I pointed right at the spot I thought they should be.

He shuffled a bit like he’d be able to see where I was pointing and then said, ‘Perhaps this would be better if we were not in darkness.’ Even without eyelids I could tell he looked offended, but just as I was about to go and turn on the lights he pulled up his device and pressed his fingers once more. Slowly the overhead fixture glowed to life until reaching full brightness. In fact I thought it was brighter now, plus that bulb had burnt out months ago.

“I had to shield my eyes for a moment and adjust my focus to the light and then I saw there was a lot more wrong with him than just his eyelids. I almost asked who he was again but instinct took over and I said, ‘What are you?’

“His skin was pasty white, almost on the verge of being a light green. I couldn’t see any signs of body hair anywhere. I was scared to say it, but it didn’t look human to me. I couldn’t stop looking him over, and retraced him from the bottom up ending off at his small sunken pupil-less eyes. I called them eyes because I didn’t know any other way to describe them. I couldn’t just call them holes sinking into his head where eyes should be.

“As frightened as I was, I couldn’t help myself and again asked, ‘What are you?’ This was a complete new sensation for me. I felt like one of those poor buggers in a horror movie that hears the strange noise upstairs and still goes up to see what it was. I’d spent most of my life shouting at the screen, ‘Get the hell out of there you idiot,’ and now I was the idiot. I was now past regular fear. Now I was falling into that fear absorbed by curiosity. I was truly afraid of not finding out more.

“He didn’t look any more threatening now in the light and he said, ‘You can call me Mister Veelron. As for what I am, I don’t think that is relevant, however if it will make you feel better I am Belloite.’

“I asked him, ‘Where is that?’

“I think my questions were starting to irritate him and he started shuffling to the end of the bed and sat down on the edge saying, ‘Belloite is not a place. For you it would be comparable to a religious sect.’

“It took me almost a full minute to comprehend what he said, because I was too busy trying to understand how he could sit on the edge of the bed but make no depression what so ever on my bedspread. I moved around the bed so I could face him and asked, ‘I mean, where do you come from?’

He sighed, or at least I thought it was a sigh and said, ‘I’m sure you have many questions, but I am here to interview you. It would be best and more traditional for you to wait for the end of the interview and I will then allow you to ask questions.’

“I was stunned and blurted out, ‘Interview for what?’

“He didn’t have much in the way of facial expressions and just said, ‘The job you applied for of course.’

“Now it was my turn for bland talk and I said, ‘I don’t understand.’

He produced his little device again and said, ‘I was in the area,’ and he referred to some notes on the device saying, ‘I was lucky to intercept your signal, but managed to forward your application after polishing up its amateurish style and there has been some interest.’

“I have to admit even with all this craziness going on here, the fact that someone had taken an interest in me was exciting and sort of took center stage. My happiness was short lived as I came to my senses and reality. ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’ I said with disappointment. It was a fantastic feeling for a moment, but it couldn’t be real. ‘I don’t know how you got my name,’ I said dropping my head, ‘it’s got to be a mistake.’

“Well so much for expressionless now as Veelron scoffed at me while striking the pad on his device and said, ‘I don’t make mistakes!’ He held it up between the both of us so I could hear the radio signal sounds coming out of it, but it actually seemed to be coming from everywhere as it got louder. If I hadn’t been so immersed in his technology I would have recognized the sounds a lot faster. It was the latest version of my radio search program for my thesis. I’d been trying to map a part of the solar system using a new sounding wave method with my own algorithms.

“He looked at the device and then at me like it was a challenge and said, ‘That is yours?’

“I looked away from him still trying to find the source of the sound and said, ‘Well, yeah it is.’

“His posture didn’t change when he said, ‘Is it not meant to be taken serious?’

“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want him to be disappointed, but I also wanted to know more about what all of this was about. On the other hand, I didn’t know too much about him, and more importantly I sure didn’t want to get him mad at me. There was no telling what that little machine of his could do to me. I said, ‘I take my work very seriously. It’s the only thing I’ve been doing for the last ten years.’

“He started looking less irritated and said, ‘Then you will understand why I had to make this visit and ask you questions. There was a lot of information missing from your submission.’

“All I could do was nod my head and hope he would get on with it as fast as possible, because I didn’t know how much longer I could stare into those empty black eyes. I couldn’t resist though and asked, ‘Are you saying you’re some sort of alien and you’re offering me a job?’ I felt foolish as soon as those words left my lips, and I kept repeating them in my head trying to think of how I could have put it so much better.

“But he was quick to put my concerns to rest by bluntly saying, ‘No. You are an alien that has asked for a job. I am conducting an interview.’

“All I could think to do was ask, ‘What kind of job?’

“He was getting irritated again saying, ‘That is not of importance at this time. I must interview you first to see if you are suitable.’

“I have to admit his attitude was starting to rub off a bit and I responded in kind saying, ‘What would be the point? Why interview me for something I might not even be interested in?’

“He got off my bed and started to pace at the foot of the bed and said, ‘A full description of the positon would involve some aspects that are proprietary. If you were found suitable for further consideration, we would draw up a non-disclosure agreement. Further details would be made available at that time.’

“I let his words sink in and thought it all seemed reasonable until I hit one point. I got in front of him and said, ‘Who the hell would I tell about this? Even if I did, no one would believe me.’

“He spun away from me like he couldn’t face me. Once he had some distance he said, ‘Agreed. The reality is that I am not the actual employer. There are many positions open in companies that would be interested in you. The interview would best determine how and where you could be placed.’

“I’ve never been great at this stuff. In poker I was considered easy money. I couldn’t bluff or see through it, but this time was different. I could tell he was hiding something, alien or not, it was obvious so I pushed saying, ‘So what are you? Some kind of employment agent?’

“He remained reluctant but I did get him to say, ‘Well I do place subjects from time to time, but that is not my actual specialty. I deal more in large corporate negotiations and occasionally I represent individuals on employment matters.’

Well there it was I thought and shook my head in disgust. All I could say was, “Damned lawyers! You’re the same everywhere!’

“Veelron jumped back like he was a demon and I had seen into the true nature of his soul. He shouted back at me, ‘No I’m not!”  His voice had become raspy like I had knocked the wind out of him.

“He was on the ropes now so I went after him with everything saying, ‘Oh yes you are!’ and I pointed a solid accusing finger at him. I continued with, “You guys are the same everywhere. I thought there was something about those little beady eyes. I let the lack of pupils throw me off, but I can see through you now.’

“He threw up his tiny scaly hands and pleaded, ‘All right! All right! I do practice law, but I’m trying to get out of it. It’s not that easy.’

“I slumped down on the bed realizing I may have caught him at his game, but that also meant I said, ‘There’s no job?’

“He swung around to face me and said, ‘Oh there is no specific job, but there are many to be had. I have not concealed that.’

“That seemed doubtful to me and I said, ‘How could any company from your world be interested in me?’

“He seemed to almost light up with even his black eyes seeming to be a brighter black. He said, ‘You could be my new career!’ He closed the distance between us and said, ‘I want to be an agent. That’s where the real money is. You would be my first client, and then a never ending stream of alien clients.’ He stopped there for a moment and canted his head like he was looking off into the distance. He swept his arm across his front and said, ‘I can see it now. ‘G’hee Veelron, Agent to the universe.’

“There was fire in this strange little creature and quite the salesman, or rather sales alien, and he had me looking up to the sky for what he was picturing. I didn’t really expect to see something, but it had been a strange night so far. I wasn’t about to miss out on anything. I still had some question about how I would fit into all of this and said to him, ‘I still don’t understand what use I’d be. I’m just an astronomer. Do you even know what that means? Astronomers never even leave the ground. You know more about my own Solar System than I do. Hell, half my friends consider me computer illiterate. That little device in your hand can tell you more than I can.

“I’m not sure I was getting through to him because he said, ‘These things are trivial,’ and he thrust the device in front of my face. ‘So,’ he said, ‘our tricks and toys are better than yours. That’s what technology is about. If I was to drop this and break it, I wouldn’t know how to repair it any better than you.’

“His point was clear to me, but it still didn’t explain what he wanted with me. I asked, ‘Why me? What can it do?’

“I think this made him smile, or at least that’s the closest thing I could describe strange empty mouth display and he said. ‘Consulting!’

“I think I was right about it being a smile because it got a lot larger after ‘Consulting,’ and now I know why he didn’t do it when we first met. I was wrong and he didn’t have any teeth. It was gross and I’m doing my best not to barf on this paper. I don’t know what it’s called, but he had that thing in his mouth like whales have. I couldn’t help but react to it and I was shivering from his toothless grin and asked, ‘What do you mean?’

“He was sitting back on my bed and explained, ‘I represent several large companies. They specialize in exploiting developing planets and their systems. In the past they’ve found lack of information leads to disaster. The companies resorted to hiring consulting firms that research the planets selected, but this is not only expensive, but time consuming also. Sometimes we pay the firm to do its research and after years only to receive a report telling us we wasted our time. You could answer most of the questions in a matter of minutes. You have something we’ve never had before. First-hand experience!’

“It was all just a bit overwhelming, but it wasn’t too much for me to process what it all meant and I screamed at him, ‘I’m not going to help you conquer the Earth!’

“I guess I caught him off guard, because he lurched back and started frantically moving his head about. The volume of my voice seemed to be the thing he wasn’t ready for. Then again he could have also been looking to see where the 5 iron was. Holding up his little hands he responded saying, or almost begging, ‘I’m sorry Mister Crawford, you are mistaken.’

“That wasn’t calming me down one bit and I went right back at him saying, ‘What the hell did you idiots think my application said, “Astronomer for hire. Will help enslave home planet in favor of good benefits package”?’

“I was angrier than I’d like to admit, but he just seemed confused and said, ‘Enslaved?’

“I answered with, ‘Yeah! You guys zoom in here with your space ships taking the whole planet like a bad science fiction movie. You can’t make me help you with that!’

“He didn’t have a clue on how to respond and he just took up his little device and started pressing the buttons and said, ‘Well actually we could, but we have no interest in your planet. You people ruined it a long time ago. There’s nothing left here. But we are interesting some of the mineral rich planets in your system.’

“I actually chuckled a bit at that and inside I was laughing a lot harder at mine and his ignorance. I got myself under control and said, ‘Veelron, we haven’t even been to those planets. Oh, we’ve sent a few probes to do some mapping and stuff but that’s it. Unless you’re interested in the moon, we don’t know much about them. You could learn more just by stopping on your way home.’

“Well I wasn’t ready for his smile before, and now I can say for certain I wasn’t ready for his laugh. It took me a moment to realize it wasn’t a problem with the compressor in my fridge. It sounded like there was this incredible rhythmic sucking sound coming from out of his head. He sort of bounced back and forth at the waist in time with the noise. It was borderline hypnotic and he broke my trance by saying, ‘We know all of that. We need you as a cultural consultant for the Earth to get us ready for the negotiations.’

“Now it was starting to make a bit more sense. This guy thinks we own all the planets in our system. All of his technology and running around the galaxy and they make a mistake like this. Now it was my turn to laugh and I said, ‘How much is Uranus going for these days?’ I couldn’t help that one and laughed about it. I guess I needed to work on my delivery. I tried to explain it to him saying, ‘We don’t own those planets. None one here does. You guys can come and do whatever you want and no one would know. Well not right away. I’m sorry but I don’t see a big future for you in the consulting business.’

“He suddenly started looking a lot more serious and told me, ‘That’s what you all say now! But twenty, thirty years from now you’ll find out what’s been happening and then suddenly we’re in Galactic Court with law suits while priceless machinery sits on those barren planets tied up by injunctions, rental contracts burning through cash flow, stock shares shrinking. It will cost us a fortune.’

“He seemed a bit paranoid, so I did my best not to show any fear but I backed up a little and said, ‘Uh, we don’t think of it like that.’

“He just responded with a big, ‘Ha!’ and sort of gritted that thing he had where his teeth should have been and said, ‘You say that now. Once your people see the kind of money we’re making out of those rocks, there will be sudden interest injected back into your space program.’

“I had to calm him down, so I held up a hand and treaded softly saying, ‘OK. How do I fit in? I don’t know much about geology.’ I knew as far as space went I was sure we didn’t know too much outside what we brought back from the moon.

“It seemed like my interest pulled him away from his worries. He seemed excited now and said, ‘Well you will need to return with me.’

“Holly shit! Now it was my turn to panic and I shouted, ‘What! Where!’

“He wasn’t expecting that and scrambled to look around the room probably thinking something had frightened me. He asked, ‘Surely you cannot be intending to commute?’

“It didn’t even register with me. I was still in shock and said, ‘Why not? We do it here all the time.’

“I honestly didn’t know what I was saying at this point. Veelron looked stunned I think and I can only say it was a guess on my limited experience with his alien features. I was in a state now wishing I hadn’t said that. It was taking him a long time to respond and my mind was racing with possibilities. I could just tell from the look he had that I either said something that was incredibly bizarre to him or just plain stupid. It was killing me and I blurted out, ‘Jesus! Say something.’

“He looked up at me and quietly said, ‘You were serious?’

“I couldn’t look right at him anymore and dropped my head to focus on playing with the drawstring on my pajama bottoms. Keeping my head down I responded in the same somber tone, ‘Well I don’t know. You brought it up. Isn’t commuting possible?’

“He was calm now and said, ‘You cannot commute distances such as these. It is very expensive to travel like I do. If it were not for the company vehicle I wouldn’t be able to get here.’

“I wanted to understand more and asked, ‘How far are we talking about here?’

“He was quick to reply, ‘It is several of your days journey at faster than light speed.’ It seemed like he was holding something back, so I continued waiting for more of an answer and he said, ‘You have to understand that this is all confidential.’

“I didn’t like the idea of his sudden need for discretion especially when considering the way he introduced himself. It just didn’t fit with everything he’d said so far and I wanted to understand everything now. I said, ‘Is there something you’re not telling me?’

“He started to do some sort of alien twitching I think, because it was a lot different than the way we do it. It was a bit of head movement followed by the rippling of the skin the way a still pond does when you throw a pebble in. I don’t know what else to call it other than fucking creepy. Against my better judgement, I got a bit closer to him and quietly asked, ‘Do you mean this is illegal?’

“I thought he was going to be evasive but he came right out with it saying, ‘In a way, yes. There has always been concern about unofficial contact with other cultures.  We had a problem once with a travelling salesman who thought he had found himself a whole new market for some of his unusual wares.’

“I couldn’t let him leave it at that and asked him what happened.

“He turned away from me sort of like he was ashamed about it and said, ‘He was selling a type of kitchen utensil. It turned out that one of the handles on it resembled then genitalia of the locals in a most unflattering way. It touched off a holy war and that sort of thing. Very messy business.’

“I said, ‘Wow. How’s a guy supposed to know something like that?’

“Veelron explained, ‘That is the point of the law. It is not the sort of thing a salesman first thinks about, but you can see there are many oddities in the universe.’

“That seemed a bit cut and dry to me so I asked him what happened.

“He took his time and adjusted his robe to compose himself and said, ‘It was long ago and something we try not to dwell on. But you can see where someone with your expertise could be useful.’

“Given the subject I instinctively looked down at my crotch and said, ‘I suppose it could happen but it doesn’t seem like something we’d got to war over.’

“He gave me another creepy whale sneer probably to let me know he didn’t think it was funny, but I was sort of serious. I asked him, ‘If this is illegal, how do your plan on bringing me back? Won’t you get in trouble?’

“He took his time or hesitated before saying, ‘Actually we would both be in trouble.’

“I didn’t expect that and said, ‘Why me? I’m not doing anything wrong!’

“He started pacing around my room and said, ‘It’s a legal issue. You wouldn’t understand, but I think we could make a case by using the transmission you sent. I could argue that you made first contact.’

“Well he was wrong with that one. I understood only too well that he was gambling with me. I don’t know what the penalty would be for what his plan was, so I decided to treat it as life threatening just to be safe. With those stakes I decided to be as honest as possible and said, ‘I think we both know that’s pretty thin. My transmission was more of an accident than anything. It wouldn’t take anyone long to see through it. If I was the leading astronomer on Earth you might have a chance but.’

“He looked like he was thinking it over and then said, ‘I agree. I was planning to pass you off as an idiot savant and hoping to take advantage of the journey to practice something convincing.’

“I had to admit with the limited information I had, it seemed plausible. I was overcome with a wave of panic realizing I was actively participating in the planning of this crazy scheme. The significance of it all was sort of crushing in on me from all sides and I folded my arms across my body in a solid self-assuring hug. I think I was letting it all overwhelm me at first only now starting to see the seriousness of it all. Thoughts of travelling through space raced through my mind unfolding a myriad of fears of the one thing I had spent most of my life studying and dreaming of.

“As a kid I, like everyone then watched the lunar landings thinking the same thoughts of young boys everywhere. We all wanted to be astronauts and where do we sign up. To one day walk the place where so few had ever gone seemed like the ultimate goal. I was right there with them, but at the same time my thoughts drifted just off of center. I couldn’t help all the time as I watched, what would happen if that ladder up the side of the module was to break? Or, what would happen if they couldn’t get the door to open when they wanted back in? What if something broke? How could they get the auto club up there? My parents just thought I was strange.

“I was so deep into my memories and old fears that it startled me when Veelron put his slender fingered hand on my shoulder. His cold touch was just one of the many subtle oddities that reminded me he was an alien and also tangible enough to help reassure me this wasn’t a vivid dream. I broke my silence saying, ‘This is insane. I can’t go with you.’ I stepped away from him looking for something, anything to do.

“Veelron followed me into the kitchen while I looked for the dustpan and he said, ‘This is the opportunity of any lifetime. You have the chance to be the ambassador of your entire planet.’

“I couldn’t find the damned dustpan and it was frustrating. I started slamming each cupboard and shouted, ‘I’ve got responsibilities! I’ve got my work! I’m about to finish my thesis. It’s ten years of school on the line. Do you think the Deans will let me hand it in ten years late and pick up where I left off!’

“Veelron seemed to transform right before my eyes. Now I’m not saying he did some weird alien shit. This was as if he hit some button on the back of his head marked ‘Shady Lawyer/Salesman,’ and he worked his way in front of me. He held his arms up saying, ‘The transmission – Me just travelling in the right spot at the right time – My communication coil pointed this way- You and I so compatible. These are the signs of destiny. What do you see in your future? On Kallentoen the Monks of Time say your destiny is made from a decision made on one single day. Is this your day?”

“I let his words roll around in my head and then I picked up Susan’s picture. I held it up to him and asked, ‘Could you leave this behind?’

“Veelron studied it carefully from all sides which seemed a little unusual and then said, ‘Its mass seems reasonable. I like the frame. You may bring it.’

“I should have realized when he looked at the back for so long.  I said, ‘No! I mean the girl in the picture.’

“I think he was puzzled, but I couldn’t be certain. He said, ‘Really?’

“Susan was a looker. She might not be everyone’s first choice but she was way above my grade and I said, ‘I know she’s not like intergalactic, but she’s a solid 9 in these parts. I guess you being an alien and all it might not be the same for you, but she’s all I’ve got.’

“His look changed and I didn’t know what it meant. I can only describe it as being a mixture of surprise and anger. He said, ‘I’m sorry. I can only take you. I do not believe I could explain her presence as well as yours. I do feel confident in letting you know there are many females where we are going. Some of them would find an alien very appealing on social aesthetics alone.’

“I put the picture down. It wasn’t fooling him anymore than it fooled me. Susa is a great girl but I had recently faced the fact we weren’t moving forward. After three years we were still at the same stage and she had been dropping some hints about what the future could hold. I realized I needed another out and said, ‘You want me to leave the blue skies and lush green grass never to walk barefoot on a summer day again?’

“His mood indicators were becoming a lot clearer to me now as I watched him throw his arms up in the air and say, ‘You live at the heart of a massive urban center. When was the last time you walked anywhere, and then without coverings for your feet?’

“All I could do was shout back right away that I could do those sorts of things if I wanted to, and I turned away to put the picture down. Secretly I was giving him a chance to just disappear from me when I wasn’t looking. I wanted him to give up and make up my mind for me, but as it was, I was sitting on the fence already. It wouldn’t take a lot to push me over to either side. It was making me re-evaluate my entire life. For everything I could think of to be afraid of in his proposal, I was able to just as well think of a good reason to get off the Earth.

“Veelron stepped close behind me. I could feel him inch his way to my right ear where he whispered, ‘You would be incredibly wealthy.’

“Now that wasn’t something I had included in my list of pros and cons. I didn’t move a muscle and whispered back, ‘What exactly do you mean by incredibly?’

“He didn’t move either and kept the moment going. He said softly, ‘On my world you would be well above the average, living in opulence. You would be a celebrity of sorts. Of course when you returned to this world, the potential for wealth would be almost limitless.’

“Now I found the strength to face him again and the whispering was over. I asked, ‘What do you mean by that? Why the big difference?’

“I think he was trying to look smug, but I would take any expression that didn’t involve the whale thing in his mouth. He said, “Simple. You would be a party to every major negotiation taking place. You would know which companies targeted for growth during the dealings. A new type of wealth and power never before seen on your world would be yours alone.’

“For the first time since meeting this stranger, I had something to smile about. I’m not trying to win any awards here, but it seemed showing my teeth freaked him out a lot more than me seeing his krill catcher. He made a screeching noise and tried to hide his face with his robe. Eventually I was able to stop grinning, but it wasn’t easy. The more uncomfortable it made him feel the funnier I thought it was; leading to more grinning.

“I got both of us under control and we sat at the dining table. I said, ‘I think here we call that insider trading and it’s not only considered unethical, it’s also illegal.’

“He got very excited and I could tell he wanted to make another gum show, but he resisted and said, ‘I am well aware of such legal principals. This why you will make your wealth by investing in companies on my world and I will invest in the ones on yours. Neither of us will be subject to prosecution from a jurisdictional position.’

“That hit me hard realizing he had all the angles worked out. I couldn’t help saying, ‘You’re a much sneakier little shit than I gave you credit for. Just on consulting alone I could charge almost anything I wanted. They would pay just for a chance to find out what I know.’

“Veelron noticed I was getting into it now and added, ‘Do not forget about being remembered as the hero of your planet, the one who led them into the next great adventure and challenge.’

“I knew exactly what he was trying to do. It wasn’t that surprising except for the how well it was working on me. He had been pacing again and then wheeled on me saying, ‘I know your problem. The situation need not be as you predict. As your agent, I would place you at several positions for consulting at several firms for a limited contract. Say, one of your solar years?’

“He had been talking about a ten year period until now. A year was still a long time to me and a big commitment. I needed a bit more and asked, ‘Are you sure about that. I’d need a guarantee for something like that. It’s not like I could just leave if I wanted to.’

“He waved it off with his hand saying, ‘No! No! You have my word on this! In fact you have proved a natural with instinct for business.’

“I asked him how and he said, ‘Don’t you see? By limiting your contract to one year, companies will have to re-sign you to another contract with a sizable increase. If everything goes well, you could hold out for larger amounts. Your connection to your home will provide me excellent bargaining power. It would be perfectly reasonable for you to miss your home so much that only an increase in your wealth could change your mine.’

“Veelron was in a planning frenzy as he darted from seat to seat. I could almost see the schemes and plans materialize above his head. And then there were those holes where eyes were supposed to be. Maybe I was just tired now, but I would swear I saw dollar signs manifest in those dark holes. With every passing moment his excitement grew, and it was mirrored in my gradual acceptance that all of this might just work. Still I struggled. I’ve never been the kind to take chances and it seemed to me that Veelron noticed it. He had spent a lot of time trying to make this sound as lucrative as possible.

“I was certain he was watching me mull it over and it looked like he might be getting frustrated with it. Finally he shouted, ‘What is the matter! Are you afraid of success? What is stopping you from obtaining that which you deserve?’

“I knew it was the opportunity of a life time and I whined back at him, ‘But can’t you see what a step this would be?’

“He must have realized he had me on the ropes now because he moved in for the finish saying, ‘It only seems like that to you because space travel is not as prevalent here. For my people space travel is as common as air travel is for you. I cannot force you to come. And I cannot force you to say either. I am able to make this promise. I must pass here again in one of your lunar phases. If you come with me now and at the very least see what I have to offer. If it becomes too much for you, then perhaps we can work a solution in the form of freelance work from here. I represent a communication firm with some truly unique and exotic equipment. We may even avoid paying for it as a test in place deal.’

“He had taken a moment to look into his electronic gadget and then thrust his tiny scaly hand up at me in an awkward position. I figured it was his attempt at a deal making handshake, and even though it was the wrong hand, I appreciated the attempt. Just as I was about to seal the deal a memory of something from my childhood flashed through my mind. I remembered reading a short story where a human greeted an alien and thought the handshake was a universal gesture, but wound up stuck in some kind of marriage contract. I decided to play it safe and stuck out my right hand forcing him to adopt our way of doing it. I took his cold hand and said, ‘Ew – Alright I’m in.”

“He looked at my hand pumping his arm up and down and it looked like he didn’t know what to make of it, but at least I knew what it meant.

“I’ll be honest, I’m scared now, but it’s a different kind of scared than when this stranger woke me up. It’s an excited type of scared. The kind that tells you you’re alive. I’ve done all I can and now all I have to do is take that big step. We leave shortly and although Veelron says I can take a few things with me he also assures I won’t want them once I’m there.

“As I put the finishing touches to this letter I can see him out of the corner of my eye bouncing on the end of his chair filled with more excitement that I am. I was a bit surprised when he said I could take the time to write this, but he said it wouldn’t matter. He says we have to wait for his ship to come around to the right position in orbit and then I face my first of many challenges.

“He calls it a matter transmission beam and it’s no big deal. I guess that’s one of the things that make this so exciting. Having your molecules rearranged and then put back together again is an everyday occurrence to him. I think once I see it the same way it’ll be time to come home. That might see pretty vague and sitting here writing about it I can’t picture a day when that will happen. All I can say right now is that Veelron tells me there are several worlds of excitement waiting for me. All I can do now is look forward to the day when I can talk about it here when I come home.

“Sincerely,

“Andrew Crawford.”

 

I let the last page slip from my fingers and watched it float down to the top of the pile. Frank reached over my shoulder grabbing it to look it over again.

Putting it down in a less dramatic fashion he said, “Quite the nut eh? Did the first page have a date on it?”

I went back to the pile and searched through it until I found the first page and scanned the top. “No. No date, but the computer might have the files. There would be a date stamp on it.”

Frank shrugged at me in agreement but we had to wait for the forensic team to come in first. Our job was done now and all we had to do was secure the scene until the team arrived. That was about three days ago.

Frank and I were sitting in our car when a call came in over the radio that we had to meet with a forensic specialist. I called in on my cell but they needed us to come into the station to talk about some evidence. I never like calls like that. It usually means you’ve done something wrong, or they think you have. Frank had me calm down by saying they probably just have questions about the computer or something like that. We pulled into the sub-station parking lot to meet the forensics van.

Shutting my cruiser door I said, “Hi Mike. I didn’t know you were on this.”

Mike must have been busy because he was eating his lunch in the van. He put whatever it was down and wiped his hands. He shook mine and then Frank’s. “Yeah it’s a crazy day. This one is a bit unusual so I got called in on it at the last minute. I don’t even know much about the case. I was just assigned to do some leg work on some of the evidence.”

I looked at Frank for his reaction but he was watching the traffic. He didn’t like Mike because he’d gone a long way on the force in a short time. He was just one of those guys that went after what he wanted and usually got it.

“I’ll do what I can, but we just entered for a safety check and determined it was a forensics job,” I said happily feeling let in on something again.

“Just a couple questions that’s all,” he said downplaying our importance.

“Shoot.”

“Did you see any pets, or signs of them?”

I didn’t and I looked at Frank for his input. He had withdrawn so far as to be facing away from us he shot a quick look conveying a no. “We didn’t see anything,” I said feeling awkward.

Referring to some sloppy notes he said, “Not even an unconventional pet like a snake or lizard? You could have missed something like that.”

Frank turned back rejoining us while I said, “No. Why?”

He jotted something quickly then looked up scratching his temple with his pen. “Uh, it’s pretty crazy. The main team gave me some scales recovered at the scene. They seem to be from a type of reptile so they’ve got me running all over the place from the zoo to the university trying to type the damned things. So far no one can do it.”

I turned and saw the same bewildered expression on Frank’s face that had to be the same as mine. We were speechless.

“Yeah, I know it sounds nuts but they found them all over the place. Most of it in the bedroom, but no sign of a cage or anything like it. One of the specialists at the university is certain It’s something very exotic. He’s saying it might even be a new species. They say it would make a big difference if we could fine it.”

For a brief moment I know that although neither of us would ever bring it up, we both thought of that crazy note left behind and considered what we thought to be the impossible.

 

 

The End


© Copyright 2017 Brian P Baldwin. All rights reserved.

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