Haley, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
“I don’t think you’re really get the idea behind this Robert,” Haley Meadows said. She stared at the man, thirty years her senior, and thought, I’m not sure where The Service is getting these guys from, but they need to send them back.
Haley had been working for a government agency called, The Service, for the past four years. For the most part it was a great job. It turned out she had an unusual knack for dealing with the strange and unusual beings the galaxy had to offer. She was really just a glorified delivery girl, but the pay was excellent and her clients usually tipped her, which helped pay the bills the college Registrar’s Office seemed to always be sending.
Her new Trainee, Robert, had, yet again, demonstrated his inability to fill out the requisition form in front of him. She felt a little sorry for him. He was born into a world where the only thing he had to worry about was the U.S. and the Soviet Union coming to blows over which side of Berlin had the best Weiner schnitzel, and now, he was filling out a requisition form for Nayrb Shephard’s Pie to replace the stock he was about to deliver. It was, unfortunately, Haley’s job to teach him.
She was just about to start the banal process of showing him how to fill out the form when her cell phone rang. “It’s your dime!” she answered.
“Haley, this is your work phone, I told you not to answer it that way,” the voice on the other end admonished.
Haley giggled a little, “Okay, I promise I’ll think about trying it your way, one of these days.”
“Oh Haley. Good thing you’re good at your job. Hey, I have a delivery for you. I’m texting you the order now.” The voice on the other end belonging to Dale Swenson, he was a good guy. She loved to yank his chain.
“Thanks Dale, I’ll head out right away. Say,” she said, making sure Robert was no longer in the room, “where do you get these guys from? Robert can’t understand the requisition form. I’ve shown him like four hundred times and he still can’t seem to do it. It’s like trying to teach my mom’s cocker spaniel how to make eggplant parmesan.”
“Just get moving on this order, the customer entered the atmosphere a little while ago and you have a long drive. We really don’t need him getting hungry. I’ll get someone else to work with Robert.”
Haley knew the consequences of not doing her job right. One of her colleagues was late with an order and the alien got a little cranky. Eight thousand people had to be relocated, and the government had to replace four-hundred head of cattle. It wasn’t a good day.
Haley wondered, not for the first time in her life, where one goes to culinary school to learn to cook for Aliens.
“The Service”, as they were called, was a secret agency set up in the fifties to assist the occasional visitors to planet earth. There were never more than fifty aliens in the United States at any given time, but when they did arrive there were landing permits, transportation, sometimes hotels, species specific cuisine to be arranged, and occasionally repairs to spacecraft all needing to be arranged. The Service arranged it all.
Haley was recruited early, after accidently watching an alien spacecraft land at their local baseball diamond. Since that moment her life had been more of a blur than anything else.
I really need to remember to shove this car into a volcano, maybe burn my clothes, and then have intense psychotherapy to forget I’m making this delivery. The smells coming from the back of her car were intense. The entrée literally smelled like a dirty diaper, probably because, that’s exactly what the client ordered. She took some solace in the fact that he ordered a pint of ice cream to go along with it. At least this guy appreciated one thing normal.
Some species liked beef, some species liked pieces of metal, but some had an affinity for human waste. Not a lot of species, but enough that it was a common item for delivery. A few even considered it a delicacy.
Reaching the parking lot, she got out of the sad little car. Rusty, but reliable is what she called it. Thankfully the delivery box was not see through so she, thankfully, couldn’t see it. The delivery location was a hotel on the outskirts of the city, room 17.
Knocking on the door, she could hear someone shuffling from inside. “Who is it?” a male’s voice called form behind the door.
“Special delivery service,” she said. That’s how she was always supposed to reply to any inquires. It was a code established in the Galactic Treaty on the Treatment of Otherworldly Visitors. If any human asked, her normal response was that they delivered top of the line food and whole meals to discriminating clients.
“Who do you have a delivery for?” the male voice asked.
Haley looked at the order from. “A Mr. Xalert.” She could hear the shuffling moving closer to the door. She was used to this kind of treatment; some aliens tend to be more skittish than others. Once a client asked her to remove her clothes to prove she wasn’t wearing a weapon. It was the only time she had ever failed to make a delivery.
“Does it smell good?” the voice asked.
“God no! It smells like two dirty diapers, wrapped in Michael Jordan’s gym shorts,” she said. Her patience was growing thin with whomever was on the other side of the door. Protocol stated that after waiting for three minutes to make her delivery it would be up to her if she waited longer.
She heard the door lock slide back and the security chain on the door being released. The door swung open. “Sorry for all the questions. You can never be too careful, you know.”
As Haley stepped inside she thought it was odd that he let her pass, and then he looked out into the hallway before closing the door. Awfully paranoid for a space alien, wearing a human suit, ordering take out from a secret government agency, aren’t you?
“Indeed, never too careful,” Haley said. She always tried to find out more about the species she was dealing with. A little small talk could get you a lot of information. Over the years she had developed a sense for physical features, dialects, and accents. This guy stood out like a sore thumb, at least to Haley. “Bagorian huh?”
“Wow, that is impressive. How did you know? This earth suit costs a fortune, supposed to be one of the best.”
“The temples. Bagorian’s do make the best, but they never get the temples quite right,” she said, pointing at her head.
“Wow, very perceptive. Say, you are awfully young aren’t you?” He was right, most of the delivery people Haley worked with were between forty and retirement age. Mainly career government employees looking for a change from the norm. Many, but not all, had specialized training in logistics, or other specialties they had been specifically recruited for. As for Haley, she always assumed she just had a way with people, and that was her special skill.
“I was recruited at a young age.”
“Ah, that explains it, come in. I’ll get you the money.”
“That’ll be two hundred fourty dollars.”
“Ouch, prices have gotten steep.”
“Well, you can pay in galactic credits if you want. It’d be cheaper overall.”
“No need. I’ll just have to hit the cash machine later.” He picked up his wallet from the night stand and started leafing through his cash.
“In town long?” she asked.
“Not really, I have to head up to North Dakota.”
“You do know that Virginia is nowhere near North Dakota right? It’d have been better to land there.”
“True, but the landing pads were full.” He pulled out two hundred dollars in fifties and two twenties.
“Yea, it has been a busy season.”
It was at that moment when his jacket fluttered open. She only caught a glimpse of something shiny in his coat, but it was enough to make out what it was. Suddenly the blood in her veins went cold, her skin felt scratchy, like it suddenly became dry. She could feel her knees weaken. This guy was carrying a disruptor tucked in a shoulder holster. Granted, it wasn’t unusual for ships to carry weapons on-board, and she had seen them before, but this was the kind of weapon only criminals carried. She suddenly had a bad feeling about this delivery.
She stood quietly, trying to bring her heart rate down to a manageable rhythm. She watched him re-count the money and then pulled out a five galactic credit note, presumably for a tip. All she could do was think to herself, Just be cool Haley, you can make it out of this.
“So, you have business in North Dakota? What do you do?” She had to know more. By her training she knew she should ask some general questions. Suddenly an old sign flashed through her mind that she saw in an airport once, If you see something, say something.
“I am in acquisitions and liquidations you could say.”
“Oh, like buying businesses and such?”
“Yes, something like that. An awful lot of questions for a delivery person.”
Oh crap! “Well, I’m an inquisitive girl. Earthlings always like to know more. Who knows, maybe you and I will cross paths again. Never know, there are only so many delivery people in this area—“ She suddenly stopped herself, aware that she was babbling nervously.
He regarded her for a moment. Not necessarily with suspicion, but maybe some curiosity. “True, you earthlings are always looking into everyone else’s business.”
He pulled a five galactic credit note from his wallet, a fairly generous tip given the exchange rate, something else fell from his wallet. For a moment the item hung there in the air, like destiny, or time itself had decided to hold it for closer inspection. Then it whirled through the air, like a helicopter seed, falling from the Maple tree in-front of her apartment. It flashed from black to white as it tumbled end over end towards the floor. It bounced on the freshly vacuumed, plush carpet of the moderately priced hotel room, coming to rest, face up.
The item itself was a calling card of sorts. A calling card she’d been trained to spot and regard with a heavy dose of suspicion. Specifically, it’s the calling card of the Galactic Order. A simple card, it usually was one of about a dozen colors which denoted their rank and title. All of them had the symbol of the order, three rounded triangles, one in the center and two flanking either side, but overlapping. It was supposed to convey togetherness and justice. But it was justice, as defined by the galactic order, more commonly referred to as the galactic mafia.
Haley stared at the card for a brief moment. She had seen every color, except for this one. It was a color no one was ever supposed to see, under any circumstances. Usually it was found at murder scenes, crawling with investigators, always on the body of the deceased. It was a black card. It meant death.
The three triangles were normally a silver color, but these were different. These three triangles were gold. As she stared at them, in disbelief, it struck her how perfect the color was. It wasn’t like the gold was simply printed on the card stock. The gold was carefully placed on the black of the card, like an artist had sat down with gold leaf and crafted each of the triangles by hand. Each one was, in-and-of itself a work of art. A brilliant, gorgeous, and deadly work of art.
The gold triangles were only given out under one circumstance. The receiver was a member of the special class of alien. The bearer was always royalty, of the mafia type. Oh shit, she thought.
“I didn’t mean to see …” Haley stammered.
“Oh, I am so sorry. I am so very sorry.”
Haley turned to leave. She wanted to run out the door as quickly as possible. Wishing, beyond hope, she could get out of the door fast enough to save her life. With every fiber of her being she wanted nothing more than to forget everything she had seen. Maybe, if she ran fast enough, she could turn time itself on end and go back to when she had called the recruiter for The Service and agreed to enter their training program. Maybe she could stop herself from making that call.
She always knew the work could be dangerous. They told her it could be, in the same way they tell people it can be dangerous delivering pizzas, or flying an airplane. Yes, something could go wrong, but it likely never will. She never really thought it could happen to her. Now, here she was, sentenced to death, by accident, by someone she could only assume was a Galactic Assassin.
Then everything went dark …