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 Five

September 16, 2380
To: Ambassador Sah'churaaf, Dr. Ehm'varra, and Sah'hael
C.O. The Sah'aaran Embassy
San Francisco, California, Terra

Honored Father, Mother and Brother:

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to write to you. My tardiness shames me, but I have, as you might imagine, been extremely busy of late.

I have just completed my first week of classes at Sah'salaan University. The initial two or three days were somewhat chaotic, as is apparently to be expected, but things have now begun to settle down. My classes are quite stimulating and challenging, and the instructors seem very knowledgeable. The resources at the University are considerable, and I have begun to learn how to make efficient use of them. I have also begun to make friends among my fellow students. I will tell you more about this when time allows.

As expected, my living arrangements are most satisfactory, and Sah'surraa and his family have made me quite welcome. Indeed I have truly begun to feel that I belong here. I am pleased that Sah'surraa and his mate suggested that I share their home, and that I was spared life in the residence halls, which--I am universally assured--can be most distracting, not conducive to study. I have been provided with more than ample space, and my every need is met immediately. Sah'surraa has even gone so far as to convert an unused dining room into exercise space, complete with gymnastic equipment! As you know, I must still be careful of my knee--though it has been more than four years since the accident--but I did appreciate the thought, and after a long day of study I am most certainly in need of an hour or two of exercise. Do not worry; I shall be cautious. I will not risk another such terrible injury.

The weather here has been beautiful. Second-Summer has begun to pass into autumn, and we are promised a mild winter. This weekend I hope to see more of the countryside; Ehm'rael Abrams' bond-mate Sah'larssh has promised to borrow his grandparents' hover-skim. His sister Ehm'talak will come along as well; it should be a pleasant outing.

I am pleased to hear that Sah'hael's application for an internship at the Embassy has been accepted. I wish him much success, and I will be pleased to introduce him to the University next fall, if he should so choose.

I miss all of you very much, and I look forward to seeing you during the winter break.

Your obedient daughter (and sister)


Well, now that's over with, I can begin to tell the truth. And Goddess, where do I start?

Sah'aarans don't cry. Everybody knows that--even Ehm'rael and Ehm'murra, and they grew up among humans. Tears are an affront to the Goddess, who made us to be strong and fearless; and worse, they demonstrate weakness.

But the first thing I did when I got home from my first day of classes was to lock myself in my room and cry my eyes out. I was absolutely, positively certain I couldn't do it; that I wouldn't be able to cope, and I'd end up flunking out. At that moment--predictably, I guess-- I wanted nothing more in the universe than Tom; his arms around me and his voice in my ear. He would have joked me out of my funk, I know; he would have had me laughing at myself within five minutes. But he's a couple dozen light-years away, and so I had to get over it by myself. I did, of course, eventually; and by the time I joined the family for dinner I don't think anyone could tell that anything was wrong with me. Or if they could, they were too polite to mention it.

It got better, though. Everybody I talked too--Ehm'murra, Sah'larssh, Ehm'talak--assured me it would, and they were right. I think it was just the frantic hurry-up-and-wait pace of the first couple days that got to me; that, and all the new faces and unfamiliar scents. I've seldom before been in the midst of such large crowds of strangers. But as I told my parents, it's beginning to become routine, and that's good. I'm very glad tomorrow's Saturday, though--I really need the rest.

Let's see--what can I say about my courses and professors? I'm afraid that history class is going to be a colossal snooze-fest, and not only because it's far too early in the morning. The instructor--Dr. Sah'kaal--is a white-maned old fossil, almost a hundred years old. In and of itself that doesn't bother me--but his voice is a kind of high-pitched strangled monotone, dry as First-Summer grass, and it grates on my ears. At least the subject is interesting; I've always rather liked history.

The calculus course was a pleasant surprise. Professor Ehm'tev is quite young--only in her mid-twenties--and she has a great enthusiasm for her subject, which I've already found infectious. I've usually been able to hold my own in math, but I've never enjoyed it, nor studied it by choice. Not like Tom, who works trigonometry problems in his head for fun. But Ehm'tev's lectures are so engrossing, and her explanations so clear, I think I might actually pass. Maybe even with a decent grade.

I was also surprised to find that the linguistics class is taught by a Centaurii, Dr. Taipekk. She's fairly young--only about a hundred--but her biological mother (as opposed to her crèche-mother) was instrumental in the invention of those embedded translators that all Centaurii wear these days. I'd better pay attention to her--this course is the first step to my major. She sure can pile on the homework, though--as can they all, actually. That's part of what sent my head spinning at first.

The computer-programming class is taught by a human, Henry "call me Hank" Zane. He's very young, and extremely strange, twitchy almost to the point of seeming psychotic. He dresses like an unmade bed, and he's constantly blurting out "See? See? See?" and "okay, okay, okay" as he lectures. It's the kind of thing that would drive many Sah'aarans crazy, and indeed there were several dropouts in the first few days. He didn't seem to take it personally--or even realize what was happening. Tom's father and his little quirks are positively charming in comparison--though I don't doubt Joel Abrams and Hank Zane would actually have a lot in common. I confess I thought about dropping too--but I didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to pick up another three units somewhere else. I'm used to humans by now; I'll endure. At least he's not boring.

And then there's that anthropology course. I was right: the professor (Dr. Sah'mahr, a rather small, sleek-furred male from Ehm'tarr Continent) zeroed in on me instantly. He knows about Ehm'ayla--who on Sah'aar doesn't, after that Undercity business two years ago--and he also knows who her son is bonded to. I guess he reads the Society column of the Interplanetary News. As a result, he has his eye on me--and I'm not sure yet whether that's a good thing or a bad. We'll see.

Speaking of which: I am very, very glad I'm already bonded. I hope this doesn't sound too terribly conceited, but I can't count the number of times this last week I've caught young males staring at me. It's my fur, of course, and it's been happening for years. These days, though, it only lasts until they get a whiff of my pheromones. It's actually rather funny to see their nostrils dilate and their pupils contract before they turn away. I don't think I'll mention that in my next letter to Tom--he wouldn't understand, poor boy.

So--bottom line, as my father-in-law would say--despite being a little overwhelmed on my first day, I really think I'll be able to accomplish this. I know everyone expects me to--and more importantly, they all believe I can. I'd still give a lot to have Tom here with me, though--especially tonight. This longing for him is terrible, and--unfortunately for me--time doesn't seem likely to cure it. It's almost one of "those times of the year" again, and that can only make it worse. How I'll endure until I see him again, I can't imagine.

Well, it's late, and I suppose I ought to get some sleep. No classes tomorrow, thank the Goddess--I'm more than ready for a little R&R.

Oops--visiphone's ringing. Who can that be at this hour? Excuse me.

To Be Continued...

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