[The final episode in an extract from another of my little projects in the War Against Boris the Bytrode Series…]
She pulled the old jacket around her arms and grimaced as she drew in the damp mouldy aroma that accompanied it. At least it was warmer. A large lopsided figure lumbered through, parting the sea of the dozen or so bowling competitors. Black balls skittered in all directions onto the concrete floor and the white ball snuck irretrievable under the bar fridge. Imagine, a fridge in the coldest continent on Earth! In chorus the crowd cried in protest, ‘Oh, Fritz!’
‘Oh, sorry, sorry!’ the hairy awkward form mumbled as he thrashed his way through the maddening mob. As some of the group sank to their hands and knees in search of kitty and bowling balls, the klutz continued to apologise oblivious to the search.
Maybe I can pretend to be part of the crew, Letitia thought as she slithered to a table in the corner. She perched on the edge of the seat and observed this peculiar group of people undetected.
‘I’ll sus them out, and when I have worked out what’s going on, I’ll make the right impression before hitting them with the fusion bomb of bad news,’ she whispered.
The clumsy man had his back to her and was standing on the green carpet. The group of bowlers were furious, ‘Get off, Fritz! We are playing, Fritz! Get off, will ya? You’re in the way!’
As if only half aware of his surroundings, the man of all feet and no grace, turned and stumbled towards the table. Behind his crooked glasses, his eyes grew wide.
Letitia gasped. I know him. He’s the Chief Physicist from the IGSF (intergalactic Space Fleet).
Fritz his face pale as if he’d seen a ghost, pointed at her.
‘Fritz!’ she stammered. ‘I mean, Professor Grossman.’
‘Letitia? W-what are you d-doing here?’ Fritz collided into a nearby metal chair causing it to clatter onto the floor.
She shrugged. ‘Er—I don’t know—just sorta thought I’d drop in.’
‘After all these years…’
‘Yes, um, Boris ya know.’
Fritz adjusted his spectacles and then rubbed his eye. ‘We never gave up. Nathan never gave up. He’s been looking for you. He sent me here, to look. He kept me working—worm holes, parallel universes, you name it, he kept on searching for you. Everyone thought he was crazy.’
‘Nathan?’ she asked, the words choking in her throat. The 1960’s—he’d been so right for her—they’d been so right for each other—except at that time, the world-view their relationship as so wrong. The 1960’s, on Earth, in Australia, when tall, dark Nathan had been classed as “fauna”. No rights to vote. No rights to own a house. Yet, in the ISGF, Nathan and Letitia as an item, had been accepted.
Letitia wiped a tear from her eye. ‘After Boris attacked our ship, I thought I’d lost him forever.’
‘He never gave up,’ Fritz said.
‘How did he know? I was involved in a plane crash—Boris—he said he was sending me to another world. I think I’ve just arrived.’
‘Oh, there was a plane crash about a week ago—somewhere—over there.’ He waved his hands about. ‘Some other station…far away from here…’ His voice trailed off into uncertainty.
‘When did you arrive, Professor?’
‘About a week ago.’
‘He never gave up, Nathan…’ Letitia frowned. ‘But, why would Boris do that? Why would he be so kind?’
She bit her lip and avoided the obvious conclusion that someday, some time, Boris would demand her to return the favour.
The calendar of 1967 with the not-so faded photo of the Central Australian rock troubled her too. ‘What’s with the calendar? Has no one pride in the place to change it? Update it in—I know it’s Uluru—memories of a warmer clime.’
Fritz glanced at the glossy time device. ‘Oh, that. Tacky, yeah, I know.’ He saluted the calendar half-heartedly. ‘At least they have the year right. Pff!’ He looked again. ‘Oh, yeah, and the month’s right too. It’s January, isn’t it? We’ve just had New Year’s a couple of days ago. Some of the crew are still recovering if you know what I mean.’
Letitia shook her head. ‘Hmm, Boris, he did send me to another world.’
‘Yeah, well, it’ll be alright,’ Fritz said.
He stood and offered his hand.
‘Will I see Nathan?’ she asked taking his hand.
‘Hopefully—soon. Listen, you need rest. I’ll organise the transport.’
Fritz pulled Letitia to standing and then guided her out the common room and to the dormitory.
As she snuggled into a thermo-sleeping bag, she drew the hood over her head and asked, ‘Do you think you can keep the others from noticing I’m here?’
‘What do you mean? I thought that’s what you were doing—I mean using your invisibility skills.’
‘As I said, Nathan detected your presence.’ Fritz fiddled with his spectacles. ‘These glasses use sonar to detect things that are cloaked. Like you. It may just be this world.’
Fritz patted the hood of her sleeping bag. ‘Get some sleep. We transport back to Earth in the morning. Nathan is looking forward to seeing you.
‘Fritz? One more thing.’
‘I have a daughter—Jemima. She’s Nathan’s…’
‘Huh? Jemima? You have a…?’
‘Oh, Her! Yes, she’s been helping us.’
Letitia nodded and closed her eyes. Her head spun. Nathan…Jemima helping…And the thought that crept up behind her and caught her off-guard. What arrangement had Jemima made with Boris?
Fritz returned with chicken noodle soup in a flask. He set it on the small tin cupboard beside her bunk.
Letitia sat up and sipped the soup. She tried not to think about the deal Jemima made to save her mother from certain death on Mirror World. And maybe, the driving force behind the gesture—the need for a daughter to find her father.
Snug in her cocoon, stomach filled with soup, her heart content with anticipation to see her first love again, Letitia thanked God, and then drifted off to sleep.
King of the Springs
In an exclusive club on the edge of this desert town, Tails positioned himself on the stool at the bar and prepared to down an ice-cold beer. Nothing like a chilled beer in the middle of a hot summer in the Centre of Australia. He raised the schooner of amber liquid and savoured the moment…
A commanding figure strode into the bar. Walking in his direction…
Tails’ eyes narrowed. He spat out an expletive. Then muttered, ‘They’re after me!’
Appetite for his beer lost, he abandoned the full and frothing glass. Alighted from his barstool. Scuttled from the bar, through the Pokies Parlour. Into the melting heat of midday.
Packing up the boys and escaping south, to Adelaide foremost on his mind.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Mt. Wellington summit © L.M. Kling 2009