Homelanders who are stationed on Earth do not travel by commercial airlines. For one thing, they’re too expensive for us with our low-paying cover jobs. For another thing, they’re too dangerous. By way of comparison, my country’s national airline, ThorgelfaynAire, is a thousand fifty-six years old and hasn’t had a fatality yet this hexacentury.) So we generally hop around by jitney-a small craft that can easily travel the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Unfortunate, my driver had a weak grasp of geography! Almost the instant he said, “Good luck, Bobo,” I knew something was wrong. I was supposed to be in a northern suburb of Chicago, to interview Melissa Franklin about a trip to Homeland, but the scenery didn’t look right. I trudged along the highway, when I suddenly saw a sign that confirmed my fears: “City of Novi-Willkommen” it said. I had no idea where I was, but I knew that it wasn’t Illinois!
I briefly contemplated pushing the button on my wristwatch, but since that was supposed to be used only in emergencies; I decided to hitchhike to the nearest pay phone.
Car after car whizzed by, until a brown van pulled over.
“Do you need help?” the driver inquired. He was a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard. I explained that I was stranded and just needed to get to a telephone. He waved me into the passenger seat, and explained that I could use the phone at his office, just up the road. Before I could even thank him, we had arrived at a long, grey building surrounded on all sides by trees. He backed his vehicle into a parking space across from the door.
Once we were inside the building, he showed me to a telephone and left me to make my call. It didn’t take long to arrange for a new ride. I searched out my benefactor to thank him, but I found him in a discussion with a co-worker. I just stood to one side at a polite distance until the conversation was over.
“Thank you very much for your kind help,” I said, extending my hand.
“Think nothing of it,” he laughed, taking my hand and shaking it firmly. “It was the least I could do. My name is David.”
When I told him my name was Bobo, his whole body stiffened! “Bobo who?” he asked quietly.
“Bobo Lornifar,” I replied, “I am from Nigeria.”
Somehow I think this David knows about me. He just stood there dewy-eyed and stunned as I left.
About an hour later, I found myself riding the elevator up to the fourteenth floor in an office building north of Chicago. The receptionist summoned Melissa, and we headed for a room where we could talk.
As soon as we had sufficient privacy, I told Melissa that Prof. Dr. Fargnon was very impressed with her poignant plea and life-long dream of space travel, and had no difficulty getting approval for her trip. My role was to inform her that she had been selected, and to help her prepare for the trip. She accepted the news with a mixture of calm excitement and disbelief!
I briefed her about the trip. First of all, she must resign her job immediately. (Our contacts will get it back for her upon her return.) We decided on a cover story about Melissa winning a vacation to Switzerland in a lottery. Then I gave her a neatly typed list of instructions, which we read avidly.
“Ten pounds of luggage!” she wailed, “That’s not enough!”
I explained to her that she would receive a thousand twenty-four Ducat grant out of which she can purchase clothing on arrival. Fashions are different in Thorgelfayne, and she’ll want to buy all new clothing anyway. Only three or four changes of casual clothes will be necessary. I also told her not to bother bringing a camera, since unexposed film won’t survive the trip. (The Human Boosters League supplies all Human visitors with ample toiletries and a camera with photographic supplies.)
I told her to be ready for a weekend trip to the Moon after work on Friday. She will receive two days of orientation classes, and then she’ll be returned to Earth for a while to prepare for her departure to Tau Ceti.
She stared at the instruction sheet reverently, as if it were some sacred document. “I can’t believe I really get to go!”
She’s on her way!