The Impresario: Scene One

It’s September and that means it’s time for a new story.  This one is a sci-fi tale and it has the first appearance of an alien from the vicious Zaftan race

By Hank Quense

Originally published by Electric Spec in May, 2006
© 2006

Rhonda Minestra walked into the office, and after shutting the door, she grinned and bounced on her toes. “Sid, you’ll never guess what my tarot cards said last night.”

Her uncle – and boss — Sid Glower, looked up from a report. “You’re only forty-five minutes late. What brings you into the office so early?”

She didn’t react to his comment. “The cards predicted . . . Visitors!”

“I hate it when you talk in capitals.”

“I bought this on the way to work.” Rhonda pulled a small digital camera from a large purse. “I’ll take pictures of these . . . Visitors. That way I’ll have proof to back up my story. I also have a notebook and a pen in my purse, so I’m all set.”

Sid stood and walked to the coffee pot. He was shorter than Rhonda and was plumpish to her slimness. Mostly bald, he wore a tan wash-and-wear suit that needed to be unwrinkled. His eyeglasses never stayed in place and usually perched on the end of his nose.

Rhonda sat her desk. “I wonder who it’ll be. Time-travelers? Aliens? I think aliens would make a better story.”

“I wish they would all stay away.” Sid returned to his desk with a mug of coffee. “Whenever they show up, Earth or our history is threatened. And they never pay for our services.”

“Well, I’m gettin’ paid this time. By a tabloid.” She turned the camera on and scanned the small office through the LCD screen.

A sudden air current sent a sheet of paper skidding across Sid’s desk.

Rhonda gasped and panned the office, looking for the source of the disturbance. Her camera came to a halt when the preview screen showed a stranger sitting by Sid’s desk. She took a picture and walked to a chair where she could get a better look at the stranger. He was in his early twenties, medium build with dark eyes and hair. He wore sandals and a loose robe filled with travel patches from places she didn’t recognize. He looked at her and smiled, then turned to Sid, cleared his throat and said, “Zyd Klozerr?”

Sid raised his hands, palms up, and shrugged.

The visitor dug into a pouch belted at his waist and extracted a brown ring. He handed it to Sid, hesitated a moment then handed a second one to Rhonda. At least ten sizes too big, the ring had a cool, metallic feel to it. Rhonda slipped it on her thumb and started as the ring resized itself to her finger.

“Sid Glower?” the stranger asked.

“Ohmygawd!” Rhonda howled. “A translator ring. I always wanted one. When I was a kid, I used to dump the cereal outta the boxes hopin’ to find a translator ring.”

“And you are?” Sid ignored her.

“Ded Lazar.” He gave Rhonda a grin. His teeth gleamed unnaturally white, the sign of a staggering dental bill. “You must be Rhonda Minestra.”

“What kind if name is Ded Lazar?” Sid looked puzzled.

“It’s my kind of name.”

“When are you from?” Rhonda knew a time-traveler when she saw one.

“About fifteen hundred years in the future.”

“About?” Sid asked. “You aren’t sure?”

“We don’t concern ourselves with exact dates because time travel makes them a bit vague.” He cleared his throat. “I need your help.”

“Why us?” Sid asked. “How did you find us?”

“I want to research early jazz music and I found your space/time coordinates in the Intergalactic Travelers Guide. Several references in it mentioned that you had been helpful to others. So here I am.”

Rhonda frowned at the threat to her exclusive story. “Hey. Does this guide book list other people around here?” They could be potential competitors.

“Not for this when-site. Will you help me?”

“I run the best life-style consultancy in the city.” Sid said. “My services have a substantial up-front fee.”

“Money’s not a problem.” Ded waved a hand.

“What is your problem?” Rhonda asked. “You look like your life-style is okay.”

“It’s not my life-style. I’m a singer and an impresario wants me to sign a contract with him.”

“A singer.” Rhonda clasped her hands. What a great angle for her story. A struggling artist.

“We don’t usually represent talent, but what’s wrong with the impresario?”

“He’s vicious and his contract terms amount to slavery.”

“So don’t sign,” Sid said. “I don’t see what the problem is.

“He’ll kidnap me and my band, then he’ll torture us until we sign.”

“A band?” Rhonda slapped her palm on her knee. This got better and better.

“Yeah. I’m the lead singer in a group called Luke-Warm Fusion.”

“If this impresario is vicious, and I represent you, I could be endangering the world.”

“Don’t be silly, Uncle Sid.” It would just like him to screw up her big chance because of some imagined threat. “Of course we’ll help him.”

Sid scowled at her.

“Great.” Ded Lazar gave Rhonda a ravishing smile that made her stomach lurch. “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared then reappeared a few seconds later.

“What was that all about?” Sid asked.

“After you agreed to help, I went back to the future to organize things. I had a recording studio built adjacent to your office. They started construction a month ago. In your time.” He walked over to the window overlooking Eighth Avenue in Mid-town Manhattan. “It’s out here.”

Rhonda peeked through the window. “I don’t see anythin’ but traffic.”

“It’s suspended in mid-air in a parallel universe. We’ll build a portal in this outer wall in a day or two. Once I get all my equipment moved in, I’ll give you a tour. It’s a super-zwark setup. By the way, where can I get recordings of old jazz music?”

“My father has a big collection,” Rhonda said. “Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie. I’ll bring in a bunch of CD’s tomorrow.” Maybe she could swap the CD’s for an interview.

To be continued

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