Scentral Command

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“Atten-hut!  Ladies and gentlemen – Commander in Chief Polo Crest!”

“General Polo.  General Obsession.  Admiral Banderas.  Good to see you back in port.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Secretary Devin.”

“Sir.”

“OK – let’s get to work.”

“Thank you, sir.  Men – be seated.”

“Do we need introductions?  I see some new faces in the room.”

“Yes.  Assistant Director Gucci B. Gucci.  National Olfactory Agency.  Technically, she doesn’t exist.”

<Laughter>

“She’s filling in today for Madame Director Rochas.”

“Is something….?”

“She’s having a hip replacement.”

“And the pretty lady in blue?”

“Hello, sir.  Dior Addict.  Scentral Intelligence.”

“Ah, yes.  You’re the one who took out that critic… what was her name?”

“Tania Sanchez.  Actually, we missed on that one.”

“What do you have for me, General?”

“Sir – we’ve uncovered evidence that Cologne City has been…  Well, I’ll be blunt, sir.  Cologne City has been infiltrated.”

“Infiltrated?”

“Yes, sir.  Infiltrated.”

“Good God.  By who?”

“Sir, we know that you may find this hard to believe.  But we have irrefutable evidence that we’ve been infiltrated by light scents.”

“Light scents?  You mean…like…sport scents?”

“Yes, sir.  And possibly worse.”

“Worse than sport scents?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Holy Toledo.  What are we talking here?”

“Well, perhaps it’s better if we just show you.”

“By all means, do.  Good God!  Sport scents.  I can’t believe it.”

“Yes, sir.  It is rather unexpected.  General Obsession will give the briefing.  General?”

“Sir.  Ladies and gentlemen.”

“General?  The floor is yours.”

“Thank you, sir.  If everyone would please turn to page two of the briefing papers, I’ll begin…”

“At approximately O-eight-hundred hours this morning, aerial reconnaissance by a Fragrance Force CKN-2U surveillance aircraft showed detectable levels of hydrolyzed jojoba esters over neutral airspace, about halfway between Cologne City and the Porcelain Empire.  Further reconnaissance craft were then scrambled, and a complete fragrance mapping of airspace surrounding Cologne City was undertaken.  By O-eight-hundred-thirty hours, the presence of light scents was confirmed.  Samples were retrieved and rushed to Area 19 for analysis.  By O-nine-hundred hours, the samples were positively identified as CKC.”

“CKC?  You mean ‘Crave’?  That horrible synthetic substance that’s marked with that symbol in some foreign language?”

“Yes, sir.  It’s a male symbol.  It’s Alchemical – a language in the Historical family.”

“But Crave has been outlawed since 2002!  And it hasn’t been produced anywhere on the planet since….”

“Since 2005.  Yes, sir.”

“Good God!  Don’t our enemies have any respect for law?”

“I know sir.  It’s shocking, isn’t it?”

“Crave!  I thought we were rid of that menace.”

“Sir.  If you’ll turn to page 4 of the briefing, you’ll see evidence showing where we believe it came from.  We have suspected for some time that there are stockpiles of CKC in a variety of countries, including some in this hemisphere.  Several of these countries appear to have CKC in warehouses and underground facilities of various kinds.  It was only a matter of time before we encountered it.”

“Oh, my God.  But has it gotten into….”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll yield the floor to the NOA.  Ms. Gucci?”

“Sir.  We’ve intercepted a shipping order confirming that a substantial quantity of CKC entered Cologne City at a time between approximately 24 and 36 hours ago.”

“How much are we talking?  A milliliter?  Two milliliters?”

“Sir – we believe that the amount is approximately 75 milliliters.”

“CRAP!  Do you mean to tell me that we have a BOTTLE of that stuff somewhere in Cologne City, and we don’t know where the….”

“Yes, sir.”

“Holy ambergris!  We’re up Perfume Allergy Creek without a goddamn paddle!  And I thought sport scents were a problem.  Now we’ve got a goddamn youth scent in Cologne City!  Next thing you know, the damn things will be out on the streets, demanding to come out of the karaoke booth, calling us ‘dude’.  Just imagine them!  Filling up our drawers and trays, asking for equal wardrobe time and all that crap.”

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“Sir, we think we can control this problem.”

“And who the hell are you?”

“Sir.  Colonel Bulgari Aqua.  Colognial Marines, sir.”

“Colonel Aqua is head of the Fragrance Language Institute.  He’s our foremost expert in light scents.  He’s often mistaken for one, as a matter of fact.  Colonel Aqua was retired from the field after successful covert operations against a light water reactor in enemy territory.  The exact location is still classified Ultra Blue.”

“Well, a wet-ops man.  Good to see somebody around here who does something about the weather instead of just talking about it.  So you say we can stop this thing?  I hope to God you’re right.”

“Yes, sir.  I believe that we can limit the damage, without causing a confrontation that would lead to protests by Perfume City liberals.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.  The last thing I need is for those pinko flower-power types and a bunch of Jardin greenies to get their knickers in a twist about some poor youthie getting sent down to Guerlainamo Drawer.”

“Sir – we believe that by assimilating CKC into Cologne City society, and by increasing the perception that CKC has gained acceptance through over-application, we can make CKC appear to have ‘sold out’, and thereby discourage other youth and sport scents from even coming to Cologne City.”

“That sounds pretty ingenious.  Go on.  I want to hear more.”

“Yes, sir.  We believe that CKC’s power derives from something that our political and olfactory scientists are calling “asymmetric citrus”.  Despite having a rather limited vocabulary, CKC seems to have remarkable staying power.  This is because asymmetric citrus doesn’t decay in time as rapidly as other scents, thereby allowing an overtly weak scent to remain strong all day long.  Because of a judicious combination with fresh scents, it retains the illusory accord of ‘just applied citrus topnotes and alcohol’ for the entire day.”

“Well, that sort of science is a little above my FQ level.  I’ll just take your word for it.  Sounds a bit like that nucular foilage thing that damn terrorist, Flowers Obomba, was trying to get his hands on.  The stuff we found on the Egyptian black market girl.”

“It’s somewhat analogous, sir.  What we’re hoping is that CKC won’t realize the danger that his own asymmetric citrus poses for him until it’s too late.”

“But what if you’re wrong?  What if Crave-boy doesn’t self-destruct?  What do we do then?”

“Ms. Addict?”

“Sir, that’s where Plan B comes in.”

“OK, toots.  This had better be good, ’cause if it’s not, this administration is in a heap of trouble.”

“Sir – we think we can get to CKC by counter-infiltration.”

“Counter-infiltration?”

“Yes, sir.  Working with French Intelligence, we now have in place several highly fragrant female operatives.  We will begin targeting Crave’s associates shortly.  In six months, we expect to have enough evidence against Crave himself, that the whole gang of light scents will be taking that long ride South.”

“Now that’s the kind of plan this old boy can count on!  Grab that scum-bag by his crankshaft and take him down!  Remind me never to mess with Scentral Intelligence!”

“Thank you, sir.  We also have plan C.  From outer space.  But you probably don’t want to hear about that.  It involves the use of resurrected fragrances and pine air fresheners.”

“I know nothing of this.  Let’s hear more about plan B.”

“General?  May I?”

“Proceed, Ms. Addict.”

“Great.  If you’ll turn to page 21 of the briefing materials, you’ll see a list of some of Crave’s light-scent associates.”

“Good God!  What a rogues gallery.  Hugo Boss.  It figures.  ‘Pleasures’ Forman.  Uh-huh.  Silvio ‘Romance’ Silver….Joey Waters.  Who’s this Marco guy?  He looks even wimpier than the rest of them.”

“Sir, his real name is Marco Polo Explorer.  But his friends call him ‘Ex’, as in ‘extreme’.  He may actually be the most dangerous of them all – even more dangerous than Crave.  He isn’t in Cologne City at the moment, but we know that he has plans to come here – possibly in the very near future.”

“What makes him so tough?  It says here that he has almost no odor.  What in the hell’s manly about that?  Even sport scents have more power than that.”

“Sir – he’s a climber.  They’re almost antithetical to most sport types.  The good ones are tougher than nails, but they generally wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a cologne.  But this one’s rather interesting.  When he becomes active, he starts to have an odor.  Actually, it’s a really nice odor.  Particularly during sex.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“Sir – I worked in field ops for 5 years.  I met him when we were investigating Polo Double Black for leather jacket smuggling.”

“Go on, missie.  This is good stuff.”

“Well, sir.  His odor is faint.  Just a bit familiar – like other Polo scents.  But he has this subtle, woodsy, green, outdoorsy thing.  Like when you rappel down from a pine tree, and you catch the scent of the tree as the rope burns against the bark when you set the ropes.  Maybe a bit of tobacco and earth from the forest floor on the top of the ridge.  And then after you follow him down, and he grabs you while you’re still in the air.  And you’re laughing while he tickles you, and then you drop to the ground, jerk the rope loose, grab him by the shoulders and trip his leg out from under him so he falls back on the ground and…”

“Ms. Addict!  I think we get the picture.”

“Sorry, Ms. Gucci.  I’ll summarize.  He’s good.  Kind of like 007 with a mountain bike.”

“So I guess this joker’s paramilitary look is no joke.”

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“No, sir.  He’s the real deal.  An honest-to-God fragrance for the kind of guy who’s too understatedly manly for any fragrance.  If that makes any sense at all.”

“No, it does.  I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff in my day.  You’d figure that sooner or later there would be a light scent for guys who can’t even stand a light scent.  Christ on a bicycle.  What’s the world coming to?  Maybe us robust scents are just too long in the tooth for this world.”

“Sir – if I may.  Please turn to the next page.  I think this will cheer you up.”

“OK….  Page 22.  Holy Toledo!”

“¡Ay Dios mío!  Who….?”

“I thought you men would like her.  Even the women like her.  We think that Crave will, too.  In fact, we think she can take on Ex.  And win.”

“Good Lord.  Is she strong?”

“Oh, yeah.  She’ll knock your socks off.  This is a real woman of a scent.  Some of the toughest guys around have gone googly over her.  Before we’re done, Crave will be selling his skateboard for ballet tickets.  And Ex is going to be pawning his kayak and burning his black T-shirts.”

“What’s her name?”

“Sel.  Sel de Vétiver.”

“Madre de Dios.”

“General?”

“Sorry.  I was just thinking.”

“What?”

“We’re all sons of bitches now.”

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