Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 14

The next morning Sofie woke up early to write an article for the school’s online newspaper about what happened to the four of them the night before because she had class at 1100 hours1. She was sure that it was once again going to be like one of many of her more scathing and hard-hitting articles that she had written in the past that required some convincing of the editor to let it be published to the school newspaper’s web site.

As she was typing the article, she couldn’t help but to think about how the evening had ended. She had seen how Lydris had walked away from his sister but she didn’t know why. It looked to her that he and his sister were in a rather heated argument but what they were arguing about, she didn’t know for she didn’t understand a word they were saying; she assumed that they were arguing in their native language.

As she was thinking about what happened, she heard a knock at the door so she stood up and walked up to the door. “Who is it?” she called out to the person behind the door. She waited for the person to answer.

“Who do you think it is?” She immediately recognized the voice, it was Lydris.

“Give me a moment Lydris,” she yelled, “I have to get decent.” She didn’t have to yell though, he heard her perfectly due to his enhanced Zaltaen hearing. “Get decent?” he asked as he stood outside her bedroom. “What does that mean?”

“It means she needs to get dressed,” a young woman said as she walked up in back of him. “Rumor has it, Sofie sleeps with no clothing on. But that’s just a rumor.” Lydris blushed as he thought about how Sofie might’ve looked without any clothing on though it didn’t require much imagination on his behalf since much of what Sofie was wearing was rather formfitting in nature much like what his sister and so many other women wore including the young woman who was standing before him. “Say,” the young woman said as she put her hand on her hip, “what are you doing outside of Sofie and Layla’s room?”

“I need to talk to Sofie, that’s all.”

“Is it about what happened to you last night?” the young woman asked. “Because everyone on campus is talking about it and how you ran down the guy that assaulted the four of you like a freaking gazelle. It was said that you ran after him faster than any human could.”

“What?” Lydris asked while completely shocked that the news of said incident spread as fast as it did across campus. “How can everyone know about what happened? It happened last night!” he exclaimed.

“Small campus,” she smirked while hoping that Lydris would catch the sarcasm of her statement.

“Uh,” Lydris hummed, “but it’s not a small campus. It’s a pretty huge place really.”

“Sarcasm,” the woman sighed, “I meant that sarcastically.”

“Oh,” he looked to the floor. He now understood that what she had said was laden with sarcasm. “Sorry, I still have a problem with sarcasm.”

“That’s alright,” she touched the side of his arm, “I’ll try to remember that. However, to continue where I left off… if there’s anything about this campus that you need to know, it’s that rumors and gossip can and will travel from one end of the campus to the other in nothing,” she waved her hand through the air, “flat. Many of us joke that it’s the only thing that can defy the laws of physics without any technology to do so.”

“In that it can travel faster than the speed of light?”

“You got it!” the woman snapped her fingers. “Say, what’s your name sweetie?”

He froze as he heard her call him sweetie, he wasn’t expecting anyone to call him that least of all someone who hardly knew him. However, it didn’t take him long to recover from his shock. “Lydris of the… uh,” he stopped himself before he went any further. “I mean Stormfeather. I sometimes forget that humans don’t use the phrase ‘of the house of’ in your names.”

“Yeah, we just have last names so yeah, your last name would just be Stormfeather.” She extended her hand to which he shook it. “My name’s Irida Geroti, pleased to meet you. I hope you’re doing well despite… you know,” she pointed at his swollen lip, “that lip. I’m sure that it’s not very comfortable.”

“Yeah,” he touched his lip and hissed as he touched it, “it does hurt but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Oh, I know it probably hurts but you get better there, sweetie,” she touched his shoulder once again leaving him wondering why Irida had once again used such a term of endearment towards him. “See you around campus sweetie,” she smiled and walked away with an obviously exaggerated sway in her hips which made the pleated skirt that she was wearing sway side to side which made him gulp.

“Great Maker,” he whispered as he looked Irida up and down as she walked away. He had to wonder just how the hell Irida felt even remotely comfortable wearing such a short miniskirt for it appeared to barely cover her backside. The only way he could imagine her being comfortable wearing said miniskirt was because of the tights that she was wearing with it much like so many other women wore when wearing similarly short skirts.

“Lydris?” he heard Sofie’s voice. “Mission control to Lydris?” She waved her hand in front of his face to get his attention. “Oh,” he snapped out of his reverie, “sorry. I was,” he blushed, “thinking about something.”

Sure, you were,” she smirked as she put a hand on his shoulder and led him into her room. She knew what, or rather who, he was looking at. “I heard Irida’s voice through the door.”

“Sorry,” he looked to the floor, “she… called me sweetie. Why is that?” He looked back up at her. “She doesn’t even know me. Why call me such a term of endearment when she hardly even knows me?”

“Because she thinks you’re cute,” she said as she closed the door behind them, “much like I do.” He blushed as she said that about him. “Come on Lydris,” Sofie put her hands on her hips, “don’t tell me that it’s because you’re an alien because I don’t buy it. Who hurt you? Something must have happened that makes you think so little of yourself.”

“Well, there’s this girl, Calyssa, back on my world. We had been what humans call dating for quite some time, almost six months and at the time I thought that we were going to be together. Then, out of the blue, she called everything off.” Sofie’s eyebrows raised as he said that. “Calyssa told me that she was breaking up with me right in front of all my friends. She hurt me quite badly that day. It felt like someone punched me in the gut. Needless to say, it’s a sore subject with me and I don’t like talking about it.”

Sofie bit her lip as he had said that, now things were making sense with him. She didn’t want to press the matter for she knew that when he was ready to tell her what happened, he would tell her.

“And now that that’s happened to me, I find myself asking and doubting everything. It did a number on my self-confidence. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I had been wanting to leave my world for a long time but it was that incident that really made me want to leave.”

“Aww,” Sofie touched him on his shoulder and gently stroked it, “I’m sorry to hear that. Why do you think she did that to you?”

“I have my suspicions but I can’t prove it. Regardless, it still hurt to be rejected like that especially since we were together for as long as we were.” He was referring to the rumors that it was his house’s matriarch that ordered Calyssa to turn him down.

“Oh yeah,” she stroked the side of his arm, “I know all about that kind of hurt, it tends to stick with you for some time leaving you questioning people’s motives when they pay you a complement.”

“Yeah,” he frowned as he looked down at the floor, “it does and I hate how I doubt things like that. I really wish I could take a complement at face value but I find myself doubting and questioning everything. And sadly,” he looked up to her, “that includes everything you say.”

“I get it,” she put an arm around him and brought him over to the couch. “Come, sit down,” she patted the cushion beside her, “come sit down with me.” He looked to her questioningly. “Come on, I want you to.” She patted the cushion again. “Please.” He could see the pleading look on her face.

“Alright,” he sat down next to her on the couch while giving more than enough room between the two of them out of respect towards her much like he had tried to do so initially when he sat down on the couch beside Layla the day before. “Oh, come on,” she, like Layla the day before, noticed just how much distance there was between the two of them, “you don’t have to sit that far away from me.”

“I just thought that…” she put her hand up. “You did that out of respect towards me. I understand. But please,” she patted the cushion next to her, “sit closer to me. It’s ok.” He stood up and then sat down closer to her. “There. Was that so hard?” He shook his head but she could sense that he was rather nervous. “Anyways, was it Irida who told you that I was putting something on while you were waiting in the hallway?”

“Yes, but how did she know that about you? She said that you often sleep in the,” he gulped, “nude.”

“Irida knows that about me because she had a bit of a fling a few months back with my friend and dormmate, Layla. Anyways,” she paused in thought, “I’m glad you came by. I was afraid that after what happened last night things were going to fall apart and that you’d not want to see Layla and I again.”

“On no, Sofie!” he exclaimed which surprised her. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I do have to ask though,” she asked as she looked back up at him, “what were you two arguing about? I didn’t understand a word of what you two were saying.”

“I was arguing with my sister about how I thought she was rather stupid for abruptly leaving like she did and that she had no business pulling me away from the two of you. I also told her that she quite possibly put everything that happened that day and our possible future friendship at risk for doing something stupid.” He looked to the floor. “I hope that what she did last night didn’t ruin things between us.”

“Oh no,” she put a hand on his knee patted it, “it’s alright. I knew you needed some space.” She lied. She didn’t want him to know how much it pained her to see him be taken away by his sister like that. She had thought that everything was falling apart just as she was beginning to get to know the two of them.

“I saw how you were worried when we walked away last night. I wanted to come back to you two but I was not in a good frame of mind. My sister did a good job of…” Sofie interjected. “Pissing you off?”

Something like that,” he cocked his head. “Zaltaens generally don’t get, as humans say, pissed off. It takes quite a lot to rile a Zaltaen up.”

“You were pretty pissed last night.”

“And I acknowledge that. I sadly,” he looked to the floor in embarrassment, “let my anger get the best of me. I didn’t intend to let that happen. I just kind of sort of snapped when he did what he did to me and tried to do to you.”

“Nobody would blame you for what you did. But I have to admit, I was,” she cast her eyes to the floor, “I was worried that the two of you would retract into yourselves after what happened last night. That’s the last thing I want to see happen. I blame myself,” she reached up and wiped her eyes, “I shouldn’t have instigated that guy when he said what he said about me. I should’ve kept my mouth shut and just kept walking with the two of you. I put your lives at risk.”

“Yes, you should have Sofie, but what’s done is done. There’s no sense on dwelling on what happened. All we can do is move on and learn from our mistakes.”

“I suppose,” she rubbed her chin. “But what about your sister? I hope she’s not angry at me.” She cast her eyes upwards to him. “I certainly don’t want to be the one that drives a wedge between the two of you.”

“Nah,” he tried to give her a smile despite how much it hurt his lip, “she’s alright. She cooled off overnight much like I did.” There was a knock at the door. “Speaking of my sister,” he looked to the door, “she’s right there.” Sofie stood up, walked to the door, and nervously opened the door and sure enough Acina was standing behind it.

“Sofie,” she hung her head low as she walked in, “I came to apologize for what I did last night. It was wrong of me to do that to you when you two went so out of your way to help my brother and I feel like we fit in here on campus. I’m sorry. I hope that I didn’t…” She stopped as Sofie embraced her and stroked her back. “Apology accepted Acina, I’m the one really at fault here; I shouldn’t have instigated that guy into doing what he did.”

“Thank you for understanding,” Acina let go of her and tried to smile. “I’ve got to get to class now, I’ve got class in twenty minutes. I just wanted to come over and patch some things up between you and me. OK?”

“Yeah,” Sofie hugged the young alien woman again. “Maybe Layla, you, and I can go out one night, just us girls here on campus where it’s safer.” Acina nodded as she nodded against her shoulder. “I’d like that. But anyways, class awaits me.” With that Acina walked out of the room and ran down the hallway.

“See?” he asked. “Everything’s good between you and my sister. You have nothing to worry about.”

“Good, I’m glad,” she sat back down on the couch next to him. “However, I’m not some fragile little flower or anything, I’m stronger than you think I am. I don’t need someone to protect me. I can take a few licks you know.”

“Licks?” he asked as he looked to her confused. “He was about it hit you! What does licks have anything to do with what we’re talking about here?”

“Licks,” she had to chuckle at his lack of knowledge in some areas of the English language and how slang was often used. “Licks, it means to hit someone or in this case, to receive a hit from someone.”

“Oh,” he sighed, knowing that his gaps in language and culture oftentimes made them look even more like the outsiders they were in Human Space. “As for what you said, I know you are.” He then chuckled as he remembered what happened the day before. “When you took hold of my hand yesterday, I had to suppress the urge to yelp. You really clamped down hard on my hand.”

“I’m sorry,” she looked down at her lap, “I sometimes forget my own strength.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Lydris,” she sighed, “I’m not… entirely human.” She looked down at her lap once again, she hated talking about how she was genetically modified for it tended to make people think of those in the Genetic State of Midas and most regular humans distrusted them what with how they often referred to themselves as better than humans and that they were Human version 2.0. That and the fact that they had a massive ego and they often shoved it in people’s faces. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t a Midasian, the fact that she was a genetically modified human was enough to make people dislike her. Pile on the fact that she was from a colony made it even worse.

“Just about every part of me has been genetically modified to be able to handle living on a world with a higher gravity than that of Terra. Just about everything about me was changed including the density of my bones, the strength and endurance of my muscles, enhancements to my cardiovascular systems as well as my pulmonary systems, along with my metabolism that was artificially boosted to maintain my elevated bodily systems.”

He began to laugh as he remembered how much she had eaten the night before at the restaurant. “You got that right! I’ve never seen a human female eat so much.”

“Yeah,” she looked up, “that’s because of my overdriven metabolism which has a side effect; I can’t put on extra kilos even if I wanted to. My overdriven metabolism just won’t let me do it.” She had talked to some other young women on campus and they all envied her for they often said that if they even looked at a dessert, they’d gain weight. Meanwhile she chowed down on whatever she wanted and put nothing on.

“I have to take in nearly double the calories that a normal human would need to consume to maintain my overdriven metabolism and my enhanced bodily systems. As you can imagine,” she began to laugh, “eating gets a little expensive for me. It’s also why my normal body temperature runs slightly higher than that of a normal human. Instead of the normal 37 degrees2 Celsius, my body runs at 37.7 degrees3 Celsius.”

“Last time I checked most humans can’t function with a body temperature of 37.7 degrees; it’s called a fever and it’s usually bad.”

“For normal humans, yes,” she pointed at herself, “but like I said before, I’m not a normal human. One of the changes was to be able to cope with a higher-than-normal body temperature or as you already pointed out, it would be ‘bad’.” She made the air quotes gesture with her fingers as she said that.

“What’s the gravity of the world that you came from?” He asked wondering if it was anything close to that of Zalta that also had a higher gravity than that of Terra which he, himself, had to get used to.

“The gravity of my world, New Germany, is roughly a quarter again of this world, meaning it’s 1.3 gravities, sometimes even 1.35 gravities in certain parts of the world like at the equator due to the unusual characteristics of the planet’s core.” She then began to laugh as she remembered first coming to Terra. “Even though I’ve been on Terra for as long as I have, the lower gravity of this planet plays merry hell with me. I still feel rather light on my feet when I walk about.”

“I’ll say! I feel the same way here on Terra as well.”

“You do?” She wondered what he meant by that. “What’s the gravity of your home world?”

“1.6 gravities.” She hissed and bit her lower lip in thought, even with her genetically modified body she still didn’t think that she’d be able to handle it. “Your home world’s 1.3 to 1.35 gravities would still make me feel light and as you can probably imagine, being here was an even bigger adjustment than it was for you. So yes, I understand what it feels like to feel light on your feet. Getting up off of seats is real fun, I sometimes forget that I don’t have to use as much power in my knees to get up and well, you can imagine how that turns out.”

She began to laugh as she too recalled the first few times she stood up from her seat when she had first come to Terra. “Let me guess, you probably overbalanced and almost landed on your face.”

“I wouldn’t say that but I certainly put some distance between my feet and the floor due to momentum.”

“Yeah,” she stood up from the couch and instead of watching how she stood up, she used all of the strength in her genetically modified muscular structure, specifically her knees, and as she stood up, he swore that she jumped up by nearly 15 centimeters4. “See what I mean?” She laughed. “If I don’t watch my strength, I could hurt myself or others.”

“Me too,” he stood up and instead of holding back, he too used all of his Zaltaen strength and stood up and like with Sofie, his feet left the ground.

“So, no Lydris,” she sat back down and looked up at him. “I didn’t need your protection nor would I ask you for it. My genetically modified body can take quite a bit of punishment, far more than that of even a normal human with nanomachine treatments.”

“Do you take the nanomachine treatments?”

“Yes, of course, I do!” She rolled up the sleeve of her long shirt and showed where they had injected her treatment a few weeks back. “I still have a slight scar here.” He looked to her arm and there was indeed a bit of a scar where she pointed. “The scar should go away soon but if you ask me, it needs to hurry up. It makes me rather self-conscience of what I wear until it goes away.”

“But doesn’t everyone have that scar?” he asked wondering why she was so self-conscience of it when everyone had it.

“Yeah, everyone who gets the treatment; yes.”

“Then why do you care?” He asked.

“It’s a woman kind of thing,” she chuckled. “You wouldn’t understand. It’s vanity.”

As she said that, he began to understand. “That’s the thing about humans I don’t get, humans worry about your outward appearance so much yet if you ask me, it doesn’t matter.” She was about to speak when he continued. “And it isn’t even a female-only kind of thing either. I see guys worry too. They worry about how their hair looks. Does it have enough goop in it?” She laughed slightly as how he used the word ‘goop’ to describe hair gel. “Are they wearing the right shoes or shirt to go with a certain pair of pants? If you ask me, it’s really just silly.”

“It may be silly but it is what it is,” she admitted how right he was. That, however, didn’t mean that she would change; certain things were far too ingrained for her to disregard. And then she had Terran society to contend with that dictated how people, especially women, dressed and if you were to go against the grain it would bring unwanted attention to her. That is, even more unwanted attention than she already received because of her known status as a Colonial.

“Take for instance,” he touched her cheek at which she felt her heart race at his mere touch, “your face looks different than it did last night. What did you do to it?”

“It’s called makeup. It’s used to cover up imperfections on one’s face and otherwise enhance,” she blushed a bit, “one’s beauty. Human women are kind of expected to wear it, even in small amounts like I did last night.”

“But why?” He touched her face again and cradled her chin in his hand during which she could feel her blood pressure and heart rate rise at his mere touch. “You look beautiful without it; you don’t need to wear it.” If she blushed before, it was nothing like she did right then. “Is it something I said?” He looked down at his lap in embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I’m just so new to all of this.” He turned away from her. “I’m sure I probably said something wrong.”

“Oh no sweetie,” she reached over to him and lifted his gaze to her and stared into his purple-colored eyes. It was then that she found his eyes to be so exotic looking and that she felt like she could get lost in them. She had to resist the want to kiss him for she didn’t think that it was right to do so just yet. After all, they had just met a day or so ago but she was already developing feelings for him. That and the fact that his lips were swollen and she didn’t want to cause him any more pain than he was probably already in.

She couldn’t help but to think that the relationship with Lydris was already off to a great start and that she could already feel an attraction to him the likes of which she just didn’t feel with anyone else.

“It’s just that I’m not,” she looked down at her lap in embarrassment, “used to hearing that said about me. I’ve been called pretty and, of course, cute but never… beautiful like you called me. I’m rather shocked really.”

“Why?” he asked wondering why that was so for he found her to be absolutely gorgeous. “It’s one of many reasons why I couldn’t stop looking at you when I first met you. I hope I didn’t creep you out.”

“I know,” she looked back up, “I noticed that about you. You couldn’t take your eyes away from me. And no, you didn’t creep me out.” This time it was him that looked down at his lap in embarrassment. “As for me not being called beautiful before in my life, it’s because I generally don’t have the traditionally beautiful characteristics that most of society says that a woman should have.”

“Oh,” he sighed, “I get it.” He took hold of her hand. “But you’re beautiful to me and if you ask me, that’s all that should count. Hell, I’d even say you’re stunning.”

“Thank you Lydris, that means a lot.” She breathed in, having someone pay her a compliment like that made her feel like she was on cloud nine. And the best part about it was, she could tell that he actually meant that about her unlike most others who tried to tell her that she was this or she was that. She could see that he meant it just by the look of his eyes and the smile on his face.

“You know,” she squeezed his hand, “I was in a relationship though now that I look back on it, it was problem more like a friendship than anything else but that’s beside the point.” He looked to her rather confused. “Anyways, even when Matthew was my friend, he didn’t want to even so much as hug me. He really didn’t know what he was doing.”

“Sofie,” he shook his head in embarrassment, “what makes you think I know what I’m doing here?” She was about to speak when he continued. “Truthfully speaking,” he looked down at his lap as the color of his cheeks turned to an interesting color as his red blood rushed to his purple-colored cheeks, “I’m, as humans say, flying by the seat of my pants here.” He shook his head once again. “I really have no idea what I’m doing here Sofie.” He looked up at her.

“But you,” she squeezed his hand again, “you’re at least trying. Matthew didn’t even try, like I said… he didn’t even want to hug me for God’s sake. That’s what ultimately separates you from him. I give you a lot of credit for venturing into the unknown here, getting to know a Human woman like you are now.”

“Are you saying that I’m doing well for someone who is, as I said before, flying by the seat of my pants?”

“Yeah,” she patted his knee, “for someone who’s also flying by the seat of her pants, I think we’re both doing OK here.”

“Thank you,” he could feel himself feeling better about himself despite his general lack of knowledge in this kind of situation. It definitely was a morale and confidence boost for him considering what Calyssa did to him.

She stood up from her couch and held her hand out to him. “Here,” he looked up and took hold of her hand, “I want to show you something.” His whole brow raised as she said that. “No, not that!” she chuckled. “Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m not that kind of girl.”

“I didn’t imply…” she gently put a finger to his swollen lips. “I meant that as a joke.” She led him over to her desk and pulled Layla’s seat over next to hers. “Sit down, I want you to see something.” She looked at the datapad and unlocked it and her newspaper article that she was writing came back on the screen. “I want you to read it and tell me what you think of it.”

“OK,” he took hold of the datapad and read through what she had wrote and before she knew it, he put the datapad back and nodded. She had to wonder if he even read it for it seemed like he simply looked at it, scrolled a bit, and then put the datapad back on the desk.

“I like it, it’s a good start; however, it needs work.” She felt disappointed as he said that yet then she thought for a moment. How did he know what the article said? He appeared to have barely read it. “And I’m sure that there’s going to be people that are going to disagree with you on your stance about free speech let alone your stance that hate speech shouldn’t be protected.”

“Wait,” she picked up the datapad and looked over her article; it was over eight typed pages long. “How did you read that so quickly? Did you even understand what I wrote?”

“Sure, I did!” He picked up the datapad and scrolled through the article until he came to the part that he wanted to discuss with her; six pages into it. “Here,” he pointed to the screen, “you mention that you think that hate speech needs to be outlawed because you basically think that said hate speech is what ultimately led to what happened to all of us last night.” She nodded her head; she could tell that he had read the article. “However, if you can recall anything about human history and how hate speech was outlawed,” she raised an eyebrow, “what could be perfectly fine to say one day could be labeled as hate speech the next day and like historians have said, that’s a road we best not travel down… again.”

“True,” she sighed. “I can’t stand what happened to us. To you!” She reached for his hand. “That hate speech is what riled up people into doing things that they might not ordinarily do. You’ve got to admit that you at least agree with me on that, right?” She looked to him with a questioning look on her face. “Right?”

“That may be so but like I said, human history teaches us that if you outlaw some kinds of speech, it’s ultimately going to lead to all speech being banned at some point or another and then what will we have?”

“Tyranny.” She looked to the floor. She couldn’t understand how he was… she paused her thought. “Lydris? How can you just sit there and be so calm about all of this? You sit there and you seem like you don’t even care about what happened to all of us last night. Aren’t you angry?”

“I am.”

“Could’ve fooled me.” She folded her arms over her chest as she sat back down and looked at him, there was no indication that he was angry in any way; nothing on his face, the sound of his voice, or the way he carried himself when he walked.

“In reality Sofie, I’m pissed. Furious, even.” He paused slightly to think of a way for her to understand the mental controls that Zaltaens often learned. “Zaltaens are trained from a very young age to control their emotions and to not let their emotions control their actions.”

“You mean like Vulcans? Do you suppress your emotions?”

He closed his eyes and laughed; he got the pop culture reference, a reference to Star Trek.

“No,” he tried to smile but it hurt his lips. “We generally don’t let our emotions, especially negative emotions, get the best of us and control us. Last night was a very rare occasion.” She understood so far. “We don’t suppress our emotions like Vulcans, I still very much have emotions.” Sofie was relieved to hear that. “Anyways, to get back to your article, I really hate to say this but I suggest you wait awhile and put this article on hold; at least until you cool off a bit. I can sense your anger in this piece, it’s very clear in your language.”

He picked the datapad back up and scrolled down the article. “This part, however,” he showed the part to her, “I’d have to agree with you on. The university had no business holding said protest on its grounds. If there is to be a protest, even if students are involved in it, it should be held off campus so that those students who don’t want to be involved can feel safe. This much I agree with you on.” He handed the datapad over to her. “It was a mistake of the university to allow the protest to be held on campus grounds and there’s a real possibility that there might be a lawsuit in the future because of it.”

“A lawsuit?” She wondered what the effects of said lawsuit could be on the reputation of the university. “Do you know something that I don’t?”

He sighed. “I shouldn’t be telling you this but the Zaltaen authorities at the Zaltaen Consulate has caught wind of what happened to me and they’re not only bringing charges to the man who attacked us last night but they’re also bringing a lawsuit to bare on the university itself on account that, like you said in your article, they had no business holding it on campus.”

“Oh shit! That was quick.” she whispered. “Oh boy,” she stood up and began to walk around the room. “That’s,” she turned to face him who was still sitting down at her desk, “that’s something I didn’t expect to happen. Not at all!”

He shook his head at the pure folly of it all. “I do have a feeling that the lawsuit is more proforma.”

“Damn,” she whistled, “even if the lawsuit is, as you say,” she pointed at him with her index finger, “proforma, it’s still going to be quite damaging to the reputation of the university that’s otherwise had a spotless record. And they certainly can’t stop letting Zaltaens on campus either because the hate speech that people were spewing last night at the protest was targeted towards people like me,” she pointed at herself with her thumb, “a Colonial. And I know for a fact that nearly one-third of the student body is from the colonies. There’s a lot of people like me from the colonies who want to come back to Terra and get a good education. To stop Zaltaens and even Colonials like me from coming here will be akin to sticking their heads in the sand. It’s not going to work and will ultimately be self-destructive.”

“Exactly!” he exclaimed. “All the Zaltaen Consulate and the authorities want to do is get the university to admit to their fault and they’ll drop the lawsuit and be done with it. No questions asked.”

“Hmm,” she rubbed her chin, “and I can assume that I can’t write about what you just told me just yet.”

“Nope,” he shook his head. “I wasn’t even supposed to tell you this much. There’s going to be a press conference in a week or two to break the news. Once the news is broken, I’m sure then you can write about it all you want so you may want to hold off on publishing that,” he pointed to her datapad that was resting on her desk. “You’re going to have a whole lot more material to write about in the coming days. That’s for damn sure.”

“I do have to ask you something.”

“Go ahead.”

“How did you read my article so fast?” She picked up her datapad and showed it to him. “This article is over eight typed pages long. It takes me quite some time to read that and understand it while you appeared to have just glanced at it and scrolled through it.”

“Speed reading.”

“How does that work?” She locked her datapad and put it on the desk.

He pointed to his head. “Zaltaens generally have nearly twice the brain power that humans have. Our prefrontal cortex has twice the neural processing and density of humans. We can read and learn at a much faster rate than that of humans.” Sofie couldn’t help but to feel jealous of their natural ability. “What I would give for that kind of ability.”

“So yeah,” he looked at her datapad on her desk, “I read your article at nearly three times the speed that a normal human can read at. However,” he pointed at it, “it’s already 1000 hours5, don’t you have class at 1100 hours1?”

“Oh shit!” She exclaimed. “I do! I guess we lost track of time.” She smacked her forehead. “I still need to get dressed and hell, I’ve not even eaten anything yet.”

“Me too, I have class at 1100 hours as well.” He stood up from his seat and picked up his bookbag and began to shuffle through it in hopes of finding some meal bars in it. He had hoped that he had packed a few in his bag for just such an occasion. “Here!” he tossed a package to her and she caught it in midair. “It’s a Zaltaen snack of sorts but I’ve seen other humans eat them on campus.”

“Hmm,” she hummed, “what is it?”

“It’s a meal bar that’s similar to that of humans but marketed to Zaltaens.” She tore into the packaging and sniffed it and took a bite out of it. At first, she didn’t know what to think of it, it certainly didn’t taste like anything that she had ever tasted before. “It tastes… weird. Not bad though.”

“What do you want for a meal bar?” he shrugged. “They’re meant to sustain you, that’s about it. They’re not really meant to taste all that great.”

“True,” she continued to eat the meal bar and as she continued to eat it, the taste grew on her. “Thank you,” she finished the meal bar and threw the packaging into her trash can. “I don’t imagine that we’d have enough time to grab anything at the café before class.”

“I highly doubt it.”

“Anyway, let me get dressed and I’ll walk you to class.” He was about to protest and say that he didn’t need anyone to walk him to class but she continued. “And I’m not taking no for an answer.” She walked into her bedroom and poked her head out. “Besides, I want to walk you to class.”

“Alright,” he rolled his eyes and sat down on the couch next to his bookbag and took out his datapad and began to read the campus online newspaper and immediately upon opening it, he saw an article about how a Zaltaen and three others had been assaulted on campus. He didn’t think that it would hit the online newspaper that quickly. He began to read the article and as he found his name in the article, he couldn’t help but to shake his head. “Oh crap, that’s how Irida knew what happened to me.”

“Sofie!” he turned towards her bedroom and yelled to which she poked her head out of her bedroom. “There’s already an article about what happened last night to us and it mentions me by name.”

“Shit!” She exclaimed. “Well, I guess my article is useless.” She sighed. “Who wrote it?”

She scrolled back up at the top of the article. “Um… some girl named Marzanna Żukowski.”

“Crap,” she whispered but with his enhanced hearing, he still heard it. “Why are you saying ‘crap’? I read the whole article and it’s quite good.”

She sighed yet again at how her competition beat her to it. “I’m saying ‘crap’ because I’m in a bit of a competition with Marzanna for who can write the best articles for the school newspaper. That only means that I have to really knock it out of the park with my next piece.”

“Oh,” he looked back at her as she continued to poke her head out her bedroom door. “I didn’t know.”

“How could you know?” she asked. “It’s not like I told you anything about it. Anyways,” she closed her door, “let me finish getting dressed.” After a few seconds he thought. “What does ‘knock it out of the park’ mean?” He decided to open his datapad and look it up. As he read the definition, he understood. “It means to do very well, better than expected,” he said to no one in particular for he was the only person in the room. The only other person in the dorm room was Sofie and she was in her bedroom behind a closed door.

Twenty minutes later she came out of her bedroom to find that he was watching something on his datapad and he had his headphones on. The only reason why he stopped watching what he was watching was because Sofie sat down next to him began to watch her tie the shoelaces of her of athletic shoes.

“You know, I didn’t want to say anything before but we’re going to have to get you some new clothing.”

“What’s wrong with the way I look?” he looked down at himself. He couldn’t think of any reason why what he was wearing was bad.

“There’s nothing wrong with what you’re wearing, it’s just,” she thought of a way to explain it to him. “It makes you stick out like a sore thumb wearing stuff like that to class. You need to start dressing more casually,” she looked down at herself, “like I am. This kind of outfit is meant for doing just about… anything. I can get this dirty and I wouldn’t care.”

“Speaking about getting something dirty, what happened to your sweater that you got my blood all over last night?”

“Oh,” she looked at her bedroom, “I had to throw it away. There’s no getting blood like that out of a white sweater. And it’s sad really,” she frowned, “I liked that sweater.” His mouth opened as he heard that. “Sofie,” he touched her thigh, “let me buy you a new one.”

“Oh no,” Sofie touched his hand. “I can’t ask you to do that after what happened last night. You don’t have to do that for me.” He frowned slightly, he had wanted to do something nice for her after all the things that she had done for him and his sister in making them feel like they were welcome among them. “But anyways,” Sofie stood up, “we need to get going.” He then started to think about when her birthday was, he knew that humans often gave gifts to people on their birthdays.

“You go ahead,” he said as she stood up. “I need to use the restroom. I hope you don’t mind.” She shook her head as she stood up from the couch. “Just use mine though,” she walked over to her bedroom door and opened it for him.

“Alright,” he walked in like he was going to use her bathroom but as her bedroom door closed, he began to look around for that garbage can. Sure enough, within a few seconds he found it and pulled the sweater out of the can and looked at the tag. “Hmm,” he hummed. He mentally took a picture of the tag in his mind and went into her bathroom. Unbeknownst to him, Sofie noticed him do that but chose to keep it a secret. In reality, even though she told him that he didn’t need to do that for her, she thought that it was rather sweet of him to think of buying her a new one.

A few minutes later he came out of her bedroom and walked over to her and held his hand out. “Come on Sofie, let’s go.”

“You know Lydris,” she linked her arm with his as they walked out of her dorm room, “if you’re going to insist on buying me a new sweater,” he gaped as she had said that, “you can buy me it for my birthday. It’s coming up in a month.”

“You saw me looking for that sweater in your garbage can?” he asked, suddenly feeling embarrassed that he was found out looking through her trash. “Oh no honey,” she kissed his cheek, “don’t be embarrassed like that. I appreciate the thought.”

Lydris sat down at the back of the classroom hoping to avoid a whole bunch of questions that he didn’t really want to answer for he wasn’t comfortable talking about what happened the night before. As the other students came pouring into the classroom, he put his head down to hide how he had been hurt but as he began to hear whispers, he looked up and immediately what he feared happened. Everyone came rushing up to him.

“Lydris!” a girl who he didn’t even know exclaimed. “What happened to you?” Another girl spoke up. “Oh my God… you poor dear. What happened to you? Did you get into a fight?” Many more came up to him and started asking a whole lot of similar questions.

“Didn’t you all read the newspaper this morning?” he asked hoping that saying that would make them leave him alone. However, that didn’t go according to plan at all.

“You’re the Lydris that was assaulted last night?” a girl asked as she looked at his face. “Oh my God,” she gasped, “your lips are all swollen and stuff.” Others more gasped. “Oh wow, that must hurt.”

“It’s not so bad, my lip only hurts when I try and smile.”

“Aww… you poor dear,” a girl touched his shoulder. “How’s Sofie and Layla?”

“They’re both fine but I do have to ask, why are you all so worried about me now? It’s not like any of you cared to even talk to me in this class. All of you basically ignored me.” He felt his anger begin to rise and despite how much he tried to control it, he felt his control slipping. “Hell,” he pointed at another Zaltaen in the classroom, “when it came to pairing up for a group project,” he felt his voice rise, “none of you even asked to pair up with me. I was paired with Alyssia by default!” Meanwhile Alyssia looked up as she heard her name. “All because nobody wanted to pair up with me or her.”

“He’s right,” a girl sheepishly spoke up, “none of us wanted to pair up with him or even Alyssia for that matter.”

“So please,” he clenched his fists, “take your fake sympathy for me and as you humans say, go pound sand!” All of the girls that were around him dropped their jaws and walked away in shame. They knew that he was right about them and how they had chosen to ignore him and Alyssia in the class simply because they were an alien, a Zaltaen. They began to regret how they had treated their alien classmates.

Lydris closed his eyes and began to bring his temper under control. He didn’t mean to take things as far as he had but he could only take so much of their fake sympathy. He found it sickening that they only cared when they found out that he was hurt. At least Sofie and Layla showed him and his sister true acceptance, what those girls showed him was anything but acceptance and he knew it.

“Lydris?” he heard a voice. He was about to lash out at the person when he opened his eyes to find Alyssia standing over him. “I heard what you said back there,” she said in Zaltaen so that none of the humans in the room could understand them, “and I hate to admit that you’re right. They ignored me,” she pointed at herself, “they shunned me.” She sat down in a desk next to him. “What happened to you?”

“I got into a bit of a fight last night with one of those pro-Terra idiots. The person meant to attack my human friend Sofie, but I stepped in the way of his fist and I took the hit for her.”

“Why would you want to do that for her? A human!” She found it surprising that he would do such a thing for a human when most humans ignored them or even hated them.

“Because,” he looked down at the floor, “Sofie and her friend were the first humans to show even an ounce of acceptance towards me and my sister, Acina. Both Sofie and her friend, Layla, have been nothing but welcoming to me so when that pro-Terra idiot tried to attack Sofie, I couldn’t let it happen; I had to do something. I let him hit me instead.”

“But why?” she asked. “Do you like her or something?”

“Um,” he once again found himself looking to the floor. “Maybe. I’m really not sure. I don’t know what I feel for her just yet.” He looked back up at her. “I was in Sofie’s dorm room this morning before class and she hugged me. Great Maker! She kissed me and called me called me ‘honey’ which is a term of endearment.” Another girl in the class heard him say the word ‘honey’ and turned to look at him for he had said the word in English since there was no equivalent word in Zaltaen. “She made me feel like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” She blinked her eyes in disbelief. “She genuinely made me feel like she cared for me and my wellbeing.”

“I can see that you believe that.”

“No Alyssia, I know so. I can feel it,” he put his hand to his heart, “right here! And I have to admit that I care about Sofie.”

“And what does your sister think?” She asked for she was still very much doubtful that a human could ever truly accept their kind. “How does she feel about this… this whatever you have with Sofie? Have you talked to her about this?”

“She’s happy for me.”

“Happy for you? How?!” she exclaimed. She couldn’t believe that his sister would allow that since it was her job as his sister that he keep him safe. It was the way it was on Zalta. Female siblings were to protect their male siblings since there were so many more women than men on their world.

“My sister has been inside Sofie’s mind, my sister’s a telepath.”

“Oh,” she nodded in understanding. Now things were starting to make sense for her and why Lydris was so trusting of Sofie. There really wasn’t much a human could hide from a Zaltaen telepath, at least, without training to keep them out of their minds. “Then your sister knows that Sofie and Layla can be trusted. Right?”

Lydris nodded. “Both of them were accepting of me and my sister. Hell, Sofie is a Colonial.”

“Oh shit!” she exclaimed in English but quickly switched back to Zaltaen. “No wonder why that pro-Terra idiot tried to attack her; they hate her kind too!”

“Exactly!” he exclaimed. “If anything, Sofie understands what we Zaltaens endure on Terra,” she looked at him as she cocked her head, “or at least she understands some of what we Zaltaens go through.”

She sighed. “Well ok then,” she looked to the floor, “maybe you’ve found something that I’ve been searching for… for a long time now. A sense of belonging here.” She then looked back up. “Can I meet this… this Sofie?”

“Sure!” he exclaimed. “Come on by dorm room 212B and I’ll introduce you myself. Once you meet Sofie and Layla, I can assure you that you’ll understand what I mean by everything that I’ve told you.”

Later that evening Sofie was sitting in her dorm room with Layla, Lydris, and Acina and they were having a good time together. They were watching an old science fiction B-movie on their HD screen and like Sofie said, it felt like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Not a minute went by when they had to pause the movie and had to have a good laugh over just how stupid the movie was but they were having fun and that was all that mattered. That is, until their door chimed.

“Oh, who could that be?” Sofie asked as she stood up from the couch. She walked over to the door and pressed the button to open the door and outside in the hall stood a female Zaltaen that she didn’t know. “Do I know you?” Sofie asked.

“No,” the Zaltaen female said as Lydris came up in back of Sofie. “You don’t know me but Lydris does.”

“Lydris?” Sofie asked as a pang of jealousy came over her. She didn’t know why though; it wasn’t like they were in a relationship just yet even though a good part of her wanted him in that way. “How does Lydris know you?”

“Sofie,” Lydris came up in back of Sofie and put a hand on her shoulder, “meet a classmate of mine. Alyssia. I told her to come by here and introduce herself to you and Layla.”

When Layla heard her name, she stood up from the couch and came over to the door. “Welcome Alyssia,” Sofie too opened her arms and embraced her. As Alyssia felt both of their embrace, she instantly understood why Lydris trusted Sofie an Layla as much as he did.

“Please,” Sofie motioned for her to follow her, “please sit down with us. Come,” Sofie could sense Alyssia’s apprehension, “come sit down with us. We’re all friends here, you’re welcome to be here with us.”

Later that night, the movie ended and just as Sofie said, they all had a good time laughing and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. The Zaltaens may’ve not understood all the points about the movie but the sheer stupidity of the movie they were watching was enough to even send them into a laughing fit along with Sofie and Layla. As for Alyssia, she for the first time since coming to Terra, truly felt welcome among humans, all thanks to Sofie and Layla.

As Alyssia stood up from the couch Layla came up to her and embraced her. “I hope that you had a good time with us tonight.” Alyssia nodded her head against Layla’s shoulder. “Thank you, Layla. Thank you for everything this evening.” Sofie came up to her as she let go of Layla. “Lydris told me all about you and how so many of your classmates ignored you.” Alyssia frowned as she brought that part of her life up. “But with us, you won’t be ignored. Layla and I,” Layla nodded, “want to be your friend. We want to get to know you. We want you to feel welcome among us.”

“Thank you,” Alyssia was on the verge of tears but she held it back like a good Zaltaen should. She, unlike both of Lydris and Acina, had never been welcomed in the two years that she had been at the university. Maybe it was partly her own fault for she never even tried to make any friends, she just sat back like what humans called a wallflower. “Thank you so very much for everything this evening. You’ve truly shown me a side of humanity that I didn’t think was possible.”

“Where do you live?” Layla asked. “Maybe we can get together at your place some time.”

“Oh no,” Alyssia shook her head, “you wouldn’t want to see my place. I don’t have nearly the kind of setup that you have here. For you see,” she frowned, “I live alone. I have no dormmate so my place is a total mess.”

“You have no dormmate?!” Both Sofie and Layla exclaimed.

“Nobody volunteered to live with me.”

“Aww,” Sofie embraced her again and rubbed her back, “that’s such a shame.” She let go of her to which Alyssia wished that she didn’t for she enjoyed it so much. “If you want, come by here any time you feel lonely. Layla or I will be here for you. Isn’t that right Layla?” Layla nodded as she too embraced Alyssia once again. “Come by here any time, we’ll even let you crash here if you want.”

“Crash here?” Alyssia asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means to sleep here on our couch if you so wished; that is, if you want. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“Maybe I will,” Alyssia nodded. “I live in D building which as you probably already know, it’s a bit of a walk from the class buildings. I really should be getting going, I have class in the morning.” She was about to reach for the door when Layla spoke up. “Let me get a campus security officer to walk with you, it’s better to walk with someone late at night what with everything that’s been going on lately.”

“Yeah, I think you may be right about that.”

The next morning, the person who had assaulted them was sitting in a jail cell. He had been hoping that other members of the Blue Earth Movement that he belonged to would come and bail him out of jail but as the hours ticked by, nobody came.

He was about to give up all hope of his compatriots to come get him when someone walked in. “Idiot!” the man on the good side of the jail cell bars yelled at him. “You’ve put everything at risk you dumb fuck!”

“But that whore had those xenos monsters with her, those damn Zaltaens. What was I supposed to do? Let that whore tell me off like that?” the man in the jail cell yelled.

“Yes!” the man who came to see him yelled. “You’ve put everything that we’ve been working towards in jeopardy! We’ve been playing the long game getting our people into governments and universities to spread our message across all of Earth and you went ahead and fucked it all up. There’s going to be a witch hunt! Decades of planning and placement of operatives are going to be fucked up because of what you did!”

“Aren’t you going to bail me out of here?”

The man in the three-piece suit laughed. “After you did what you did? Nope.” With that the man in the suit walked out and the man in the jail cell yelled after him telling him to go fuck himself. It was then that he realized that the Blue Earth Movement had only used him as a pawn to do their bidding and that they’d throw him under the bus if it suited them.

Continue to Chapter 15…

  1. 11 AM.[][]
  2. 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.[]
  3. 100 degrees Fahrenheit.[]
  4. About six inches.[]
  5. 10 AM.[]