|You can be anything you want to--|
If you know who you are
"Some people to see you, Ms. D'Arcangelo," the student assistant announced cautiously. That distinguished personage, aristocrat of the campus records office--and possessor of an MBA, lest there be any lingering doubt of her exalted status--sighed. A severe cadaverous woman in her early fifties, graying hair set sternly into a towering permanent only dynamite could have disarranged, she did not suffer her duties as Head Supervisor of Enrollment Processing at California University/Fontana to be interrupted lightly. Regrettably, however, she knew that in reality she had no choice, and regally bade her unexpected visitors to enter.
To her surprise she recognized one of them, a young woman in her early twenties with a cheery face, a slender but athletic build, and an outrageous mane of deep crimson-red hair. "Kiri, isn't it?" she said with slightly more warmth. She recalled her as a reasonably good worker, although the girl had resigned rather unexpectedly early in the spring semester, pleading class pressures. "My dear, you've colored your hair since I saw you last, haven't you?"
"Actually, Ms. D'Arcangelo," Kiri replied sweetly, "this is my natural color." Taking in the garish hue, a far deeper and more saturated red than any human head ever bore (and with violet highlights, yet!), the Head Supervisor reflected that young people today truly had become a worthless and insolent breed.
"Now what can I do for you?" she proceeded briskly.
"These are my friends, Wi-- uh, Walt," Kiri said, indicating a young man about the same age as herself, with longish straight black hair and a friendly, open countenance, "Randy, and Sen," nodding in turn at her other two companions, a boy and girl apparently in their late teens.
The girl, tall and well-built and topped off by a mop of golden hair, grinned pleasantly. "Howdy," she said, unleashing a pungent Texas accent. Ms. D'Arcangelo shuddered inwardly. The boy, his shaggy black hair partially gathered up in a long, bushy ponytail, nodded in greeting.
"You probably remember a friend of mine, Wilbur Barton," Kiri continued. Ms. D'Arcangelo sniffed, her disapproval evident.
"I certainly remember that he took a few weeks' leave and never came back," she said acidly. "He eventually submitted his resignation via electronic mail," and her studied pronunciation of the latter two words left no doubt of her utter contempt for such irregular practices. "When we sent a reply it returned with an invalid address. I hope you are not here to collect his final paycheck; you will have to contact Payroll about that."
Kiri gave her a disarming smile. "No, he just asked me to retrieve a few personal belongings from his file cabinet. He had to leave the country unexpectedly. Something to do with family matters, I think. I have a letter from him here," she added, producing an envelope.
Ms. D'Arcangelo took it reluctantly, extracting the letter and reading it in silence for a few moments. "Well, I suppose it's all right," she decided. "I assume I may retain this in case there's any problem in the future? We do not normally hand out ex-employees' effects to just anyone, you understand."
Without further ado the older woman led the way to a set of overhead cabinets, unlocking one and extracting a small paper sack. "Thanks so much, ma'am," drawled the blond girl as Walt opened the bag and pulled out several compact discs, the labels all in Japanese characters.
"What are those?" asked the Head Supervisor, curiosity momentarily winning out over dignity. "No one here could read them."
"Soundtracks to Japanese cartoons," he answered with a perfectly straight face. Ms. D'Arcangelo mentally recoiled in distaste, having read all about those in one of the many ultra-conservative newsletters which routinely found their way to her mailbox.
"He never did seem to have very mature tastes," she sniffed. "No professionalism at all. Bright, though; he might have actually amounted to something if he had gone back to school and earned a practical degree." There was a momentary interruption as Sen unexpectedly broke out in a choking fit and had to turn away.
"Yes, ma'am, I wouldn't doubt it," Walt agreed as Kiri solicitously pounded the violently coughing girl on the back, perhaps just a bit harder than the circumstances required. The four hastily took their leave, the girl's face still scarlet. A few minutes later they were heading out of town in a small Mishima sport utility vehicle after picking up a fifth party at a campus coffee house.
"That went well," Kiri chuckled as she steered the vehicle towards one of the foothill ranges, while the blond girl finally broke into uncontrollable howls of laughter. "And how many years did you work for her, Will?" Kiri was addressing me, who you saw earlier introduced as "Walt."
"I think it was about eight," I answered with a stage shiver. We were all speaking in a language that you would doubtless find incomprehensible.
"I almost died when she made that remark about you never amounting to anything," managed the blond girl, whose name was actually Senaria, between gasps. "I didn't know whether to laugh or slug her."
"Choking was a wise choice," I noted dryly.
"Sen, please," Kiri sighed. "We aren't going to do any of that on this trip." She turned to the boy. "Could you follow any of the conversation back there, Rann?" He shook his head, obviously baffled at the proceedings.
"Sorry, my English is still way too sketchy. Just a few words here and there." He continued to expend most of his energy sneaking frequent admiring looks at the blond girl as Kiri briefly translated the exchange for him. When she reached the part that had triggered the unexpected fit, he looked shocked, then puzzled, as the rest of us again collapsed into hilarity. Our new passenger, an older man apparently in his late fifties, observed us with an expression best described as sardonic amusement, tempered by several obviously affectionate glances at Kiri.
I suppose we really should introduce ourselves. The crimson-haired young woman does indeed go by the name of Kiri. And me? My name's Wilorian, not Walt, although I was Wilbur Barton for thirty of my forty-six years. If you want my full title it's Nendor Wilorian, Emperor of Deshtiris. (You can call me Will, though.) Oh, and Kiri is actually Romikor Mikiria, Empress of Deshtiris, and not incidentally my wife. In addition to her marvelous mane of crimson hair, she also possesses a pair of incredible emerald-green eyes, at least twice the size of your own but today hidden by a pair of pale blue contact lenses and the simple trick of keeping her eyes half-closed. Like myself Kiri is forty-six, but we both appear to be much younger. You see, we age a bit more slowly than you Earth folks. Likewise, Rann is actually twenty and Senaria twenty-two.
Our last-minute passenger's name might be more familiar to you. Alan Brinkman really is as old as he looks, being a legitimate citizen of Earth and incidentally one of the most brilliant physicists alive. The rest of us are Aliens From Outer Space, of course, just in case you haven't figured that out yet.
No, I'm not going to start at the beginning. I told that story once already. * Let's just say that Deshtiris, a planet about thirty-five light-years from Earth, now has a new set of rulers (the above-mentioned Emperor and Empress), and leave it at that. Instead, I'll pick up where I left off last time.
* In Mikiria. - Ed.
THE THREE MINDS. Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 Lamont Downs. All rights
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This page last updated 2/5/2010.|