Down Under and Over There
by Bill Kowaleski
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3 4
Cindy fell in love with Katoomba right away. After two weeks in a luxurious villa at a resort, two weeks during which she and Sean hiked, swam under a waterfall, saw kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, and wallabies, and ate lots of great food, Cindy’s thoughts turned to finding someplace more permanent. But when she woke on a glorious, early summer morning, a morning that was by far the warmest day since they’d arrived, she saw no sign of Sean.
Outside their door was a narrow walkway that carved a curving path through a dense grove of eucalyptus. There was a wonderful, intense scent in the air, as if someone had sprayed the area with a lot of eucalyptus-scented air freshener.
She wondered whether Sean might have taken a walk. She started down the path and, after two or three turns, noticed someone rolling back and forth in the soft leaf litter alongside the trail. As she approached, she realized it was Sean.
“Uh, whatchya doin’?” she asked.
“God, the feeling of this material is so intense, I’m like hallucinating on it, I’m like... I don’t know...” His voice trailed off into a sigh.
She stared at him, confused but with a growing suspicion. The only time she’d ever seen him like this was when.... “Don’t tell me you brought oak resin with you!”
He looked up, took a deep breath and slurred, “No, I promised you I’d never do that again. But yeah, I’m high, really high. Why would that be?”
“Let’s get you inside. Put on one of those masks that you used to wear when you were processing logs.”
It took about an hour before Sean returned to normal. But as soon as he took off the mask, he began getting strange again. Cindy couldn’t understand it, but it took only a few minutes on the Internet to give her an idea.
Warmer weather caused the oil in the thick, pervasive forests of eucalypts to evaporate. If oak resin fumes could intoxicate Sirians, maybe vaporized eucalyptus oil could, too. When she presented her theory to Sean, his eyes lit up.
“Wow, it’s a totally legal high,” said Sean, his voice muffled behind the mask. “I wonder if it harms our bodies. I know a guy who could chemically analyze it and tell me in a day. Just think, Cindy, we could export this oil to Sirius Prime. We could make a fortune!”
“Wait a minute, here! First of all, you’ve already got a fortune. And have you forgotten something? You’re a wanted criminal on Sirius Prime.”
Sean looked down a second then said, “Good point, but you, on the other hand, could go there any time you wanted to. You know what? I’ll bet those agents who are planning to import donuts could make a hundred times more on this stuff. You could go back to Wisconsin with a few bottles of the oil, and have them sniff it. That should convince them!”
“I don’t know,” she said. “They might be straight-arrows like that Commander who’s coming here to hunt you down.”
Sean sat beside her on the sleeper couch, put an arm around her and said, “Sirian civilization is almost a million of your years old. We have everything we need. We have no fears, no wants. Most of us don’t have to work; machines do almost everything for us. We live a very long time, and are at least twice as intelligent as you humans are. So what does that add up to?”
Cindy turned and gave him a peck on the lips. “I don’t know... you’re bored?”
“Exactly! We’re always looking for a new thrill. Our lives have no meaning except the pursuit of excitement and pleasure. Law enforcement is about the only employment left on Sirius Prime, but the agents get bored, too. The prospect of making some quick money on a new kick ought to be irresistible to them.”
“But you told me there are lots of other legal recreational drugs.”
“Yeah, there are,” said Sean. “But everyone’s taken them who knows how many times. They’re boring. This eucalyptus could be something new, a fad we could ride for a while. Hey, let’s buy some in town and see what a good sniff will do to me.”
They bought six different brands, four of which gave Sean a quick, intense rush. But the other two did nothing despite smelling much the same as the others.
“We’ve got to get these analyzed,” said Sean. “The nearest transporter is that one in the cabin in Wisconsin. Can you go back and take all of them—”
“Hey, just a minute!” Cindy said. She stood and took two steps away from the couch. “Go to your planet? I can’t do that alone! Are you crazy?”
Sean nodded. “Sorry, babe. I think that eucalyptus is still messing me up. Of course, you’d be lost there. It would totally freak you out. You’ll need a guide, and I know just who that could be.”
* * *
Gerry Andersson greeted Cindy with a bear-hug in the doorway of his tiny office, a trailer parked next to his airplane hangar-like workshop where noisy machines were slicing logs into boards. Sawdust was thick in the air, causing her to sneeze into his shoulder.
“So good to see you!” Gerry shouted to be heard above the din. “Come inside so we can talk.”
They sat, Gerry behind his cluttered desk, Cindy across from him. She studied him closely. There wasn’t the slightest hint that Gerry was anything other than a fiftyish, graying, balding man with a paunch. And his demeanor, the rhythm of his language, every detail identified him as a longtime local. No Sirian blended in better than Gerry.
“Sean filled me in on the phone. I made contact with his chemist on Sirius Prime, and we’re all set to go. I’ve made a special bodysuit to protect you from our sun. It’s a lot more intense than Earth’s sun and would fry your unprotected skin in a matter of minutes. This bodysuit is not a disguise. It’s just a transparent second skin that will protect you head to toe.”
“I’m excited about going,” said Cindy. “But I’m kinda scared, too. What can you tell me? What should I be careful about?”
“Nothing to worry about. We’re used to aliens; most Sirians will just ignore you. But you are attractive, and as you know, some Sirians find Earthlings irresistible. Just treat them the same as guys that come on to you here. You’ll be okay.”
Cindy stripped naked in the ladies’ room, pulled on the bodysuit, then dressed, grabbed her overnight bag, which contained all the eucalyptus samples, and told Gerry she was ready. Gerry let his foreman know he was leaving and drove Cindy to the cabin she and Sean had been renting. The transporter was inside now, taking up almost the entire living room.
They’d been inside the cabin less than a minute when they heard the clatter of a diesel engine. Cindy looked out the window and saw Gustafson’s Tahoe. The Sheriff climbed out of the driver’s side, while a young man, whom she thought at first was Brad Olsen, climbed down from the passenger’s side.
“Problem!” she said as she turned to face Gerry. “Sheriff’s here with a visitor.”
“Okay,” said Gerry. “Try not to say too much. I’ll handle this.”
The door opened and Gustafson stopped in his tracks. “Whoa!” he said. “What are you two doing here?”
“Hey, Sheriff,” said Gerry. “Taking Cindy for a sightseeing tour of Sirius Prime. She’s always wanted to go.”
Gustafson gave Gerry a long look, stroked his mustache. “Nice. Uh, Ger, this here is Seth. He’s visiting about that donut thing I’m trying to get going. He works for SDE, you know, Sirian Drug Enforcement.” Gustafson said it slowly, with exaggerated emphasis.
“Ah, yes,” said Gerry. “And how is Commander Inmohotep these days?”
Seth stared at Gerry, then took a step forward and raised his hand, palm forward. Gerry touched the palm in a traditional Sirian handshake. Seth said, “You must be Semerkhet! You are a legend in the SDE, the one who discovered the euphoric effects of oak resin, but who has always evaded our reach.”
“Because I never shipped it home. I simply provide, shall we say, ancillary services to the exporters. Perfectly legal services, I might add.”
“How well I know,” said Seth. He turned to Cindy and gave her a long look, taking note of the bag in her right hand.
“And what have you there, pretty lady?”
She opened her mouth but Gerry raised his finger and spoke. “Seth, you have no jurisdiction here. Go about your business. I assume you’re here to use the transporter to return home.”
“Yes, and when we all arrive on Sirius Prime, I will have jurisdiction, and then I’ll be taking a very careful look at that bag.”
“Ger,” said Cindy, “why not show it to him now?”
Before Gerry could say a word, she placed the bag on the floor, opened it, and took out one of the bottles of eucalyptus oil that she knew had given Sean a particularly strong kick.
“You’re planning to export donuts to your planet. Well, I had this idea that your people would like this eucalyptus oil, too. It smells great, soothes burns, and is perfectly legal. You want to check out how nice it smells?”
“Why, yes,” said Seth. “That would be most interesting.”
She shook the bottle and opened it right under Seth’s nose.
“Breathe deep!” said Cindy.
He did. Within a second he began to wobble, then his head fell back, his knees buckled, and he crumpled to the floor. He rolled side to side, twittering in his language.
“What’s he saying, Ger?” asked Cindy.
“Uh, best way to translate it might be, ‘Oh wow! Oh wow!’”
“Okay, Ger,” said Cindy. “So he’s gonna be in lala land for about an hour. Let’s go through that transporter and see your chemist while Seth’s out of it.”
“Hey!” said Gustafson. “What’s going on here? Is Seth okay?”
“He’s just very high. Keep an eye on him, Ollie,” said Cindy. “When he starts to come out of it, delay him. Don’t let him go through that transporter until we get back!”
* * *
Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski