Copyright 2000 by Paul S. Gibbs. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, reuse, reposting or alteration of this work, without the express written permission of the author, is strictly prohibited.


Volume Four

September 7, 2380


(Here we go! I see they're using the Terran calendar now--well, everybody else in the Alliance does too…)


(Yep--that's me!)


(Don't rub it in…)


(Earth calendar again--doesn't anybody on Sah'aar use the old eight-day week any more? Terran imperialism, that's what it is.)

8:00 am - 9:00 am: History 3A-Room 1014, History/Government Building

(EIGHT A.M!!??!! Great Goddess, are they out of their minds?)

10:00 am - 11:00 am: Calculus 2-Room 15, Mathematics Building

(Oh, yuck. And what am I supposed to do with myself for a whole hour? Obvious answer: get a head start on my homework.)

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Linguistics 1A-Lecture Hall 511, Linguistics/Communications Building

(Finally, something that actually applies to my major. And two hours for a nice leisurely lunch…)


(The Days of the Never-Ending Classes, according to Ehm'murra…)

9:00 am - 10:30 am: Computer Science 5-Room 12, Engineering Building C

(Something for my minor. Tom would love it. I'll have to work hard at not falling asleep.)

11:00 am - 12:30 pm: Anthropology 12, Room 6, Fifth Floor, Natural Sciences Building

(Course title: "Introduction to the Species of the Alliance." Also known as "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Quadrians, But Were Afraid to Ask.")


(And that's plenty, the Goddess knows.)

Well, that's it. At least I got all the classes I needed. Ehm'murra must have been right--they do give priority to incoming freshmen. Out of pity, probably. According to her, next semester is when it really starts to get weird--when I sign up for Audiology 12 and get Underwater Basket Weaving 101 instead. Then I'll have to scurry all over campus on Add-Drop Day and repair the damage. I can hardly wait…

Later: I showed my schedule to Sah'sell (I almost called him "Uncle") and he went straight to his office and ordered all my textbooks for me! I tried to protest--the arrangement was that my parents would pay for my tuition, my books and other supplies, and my clothing and suchlike, if Tom's grandparents would provide my room and board. But Sah'sell just smiled and said, "My dear girl, who do you think publishes those texts?" Another advantage of having bonded into the House of Sah'surraa…

The book-cards arrived this afternoon, by courier, directly from the company's home office in downtown Sah'salaan. For some reason, taking the delivery embarrassed me half to death. I had a bit of a chuckle, though, when I took a look at the books, fitting them into my palm-reader to see what I was getting myself into. One of them--the one for that Anthropology class--was co-authored by one Commodore Ehm'ayla, of the Combined Forces Survey Division! I wonder if I'll get any extra credit for studying from a text written by my de facto mother-in-law? Or--more likely--will that make the professor be even harder on me? I don't doubt he'll discover the connection; it seems like everybody on the planet knows who I am, and who my bond-mate is.

Well, classes start in two days--and I'm already so nervous I can't keep my claws unexpressed, or my tail from whipping. Several statues and vases around the house have already had close calls. Everybody tells me I'll do fine--even Sah'larssh, who'll be my brother-in-law one of these days. (I finally met him at dinner last night. And his sister too--I have got to get to know her better!) I guess they're right--but I still sometimes find myself waking up in the middle of the night, absolutely terrified. If I was human I'd probably find my sheets soaked with cold sweat. I'm afraid that all those years of being privately tutored might come back to haunt me. I'm so used to one-on-one attention…I don't know how well I'll do as just another face in the crowd, one student amongst fifty or more crowding a lecture hall. One thing for certain: if I do stand out, I want it to be for my achievements--not because my face is the only spot of black in a sea of brown. That's not why I'm here. Well, we'll see--I might end up standing out for my colossal screw-ups instead. Probably, though, I'm worrying needlessly, and I really should stop. As our ancestors used to say, "If you believe your prey will escape before you begin the chase, then it most assuredly will."

One thing I wish I didn't have to worry about, but I can't seem to avoid it: Ehm'murra. I'm starting to wonder if her aggressive self-confidence might not be at least partially an act. We've been spending a lot of time together, and I've even had her to dinner with the family once. (She surprised--and gratified--me by showing up in a day-robe, and not speaking a word of Terran throughout the evening. When I asked her later what had gotten into her, she said, "I thought about wearing pants, but I decided I couldn't do that to you." I think she even impressed Sah'surraa--little does he know!) But I have yet to see her home, and every time I hint that I'd like to meet her family--her aunt and uncle and their kits--she closes the door on that idea, but fast. She doesn't even seem to want to talk about them. I've begun to wonder if that situation might be even more serious than I originally thought. Sometimes when I'm talking about my own family, she gets a really strange, almost wistful expression--but it goes away as soon as she notices that I've noticed. Obviously she's not happy--but I don't know exactly why.

I'm very conflicted about this. On the one hand I'd really like to help her, whatever her problem is. But on the other hand I was raised--we all are--to solve my own problems, to suffer in silence, and not to burden others with my difficulties. To a Sah'aaran, asking for help is somewhat shameful. That goes back to prehistoric times: in our primitive society of solitary hunters, to demonstrate weakness to a potential rival could be fatal. (At least that's what it says in that Anthropology book, in the chapter on Sah'aarans.) If I ask, I'll almost certainly embarrass her, and then I could lose her friendship. For the moment all I can do is watch and wait. Maybe it will all work itself out, and I won't have to interfere. Sure--and maybe Sah'aar will declare war on Terra tomorrow.

To Be Continued...

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