Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Proof That Anyone Can Write A Novel!

Hi, Y'all!
Check this out. Here's my very first novel page, written when I was 30 [After a hiatus from age 18 to then, anyway]

To Meet An Otherworlder

I walked eagerly towards the Spaceport. Today was to be no ordinary day at work; today I would meet an Otherworlder! At least, a semi-Otherworlder--a scientist from our moon Ye~. He--what was his name--R-y-o-n-n-e~. How was it pronounced? I needed to get it right...no sense offending one from our side. This new device of his just might bring this senseless war closer to conclusion.

Walking was an old-fashioned way to travel, but I liked it. Especially when my brain was so filled with thoughts. I had given myself further to walk today. The dimensional transfer field could cover any distance intraplanet in milleseconds; but it always left my mind racing and caused me to feel in need of physical exertion before I could calm myself. I was not quiet and serene like my twin sister, Maia. We had long brilliant red hair in common, and were both about the same size. At first glance, even our parents could not tell us apart. But if they looked closely enough to see the color of our eyes, it was easy to tell Maia's green eyes from my blue ones. At a distance, though, Maia would usually be sitting with her cube, writing in her journal by dictating to it, or gently braiding our younger sister Aronna's long golden hair. I never sat still, always HAVING to talk or make something or take a walk in the green forest near our home.

Near the Spaceport, there were no trees, but there were beautiful flowers and fragrant fruits along the path for walkers' enjoyment. Bright colors to look at that were different every day. I enjoyed the small break from the emotion detectors that were ever-present in the transportation terminals and in every building.

"Adia! You must not have heard. You're headed to the Confrence Building, but the demonstration is over this way. Hangar 5 Large Conference Room."

It was Ossy, one of my co-workers on the Eicken Project. He was so creative [and handsome, too], but he was in love with my sister Maia. He had light brown eyes, almost orange, that seemed to see into the soul. His eyes were too serious for his joking manner. He was only serious when with Maia.

"Will it still begin at 0900?", I said, striding faster to keep up with him. In the distance, the suns shone brightly in a pink cloudless sky. A beautiful day would certainly improve things...I was so sick of the rain. I enjoyed the plant life on our world, but the price was almost daily heavy rainfall.

"It's been moved up to 0915. Our guest has been detained by Areonian Otherworlder authorities-"

"Otherworlder authorities? He's not in trouble, is he?"

"Well...I'm not sure, but I heard he set off THREE emotion detectors the first time he came here two weeks ago. I guess they want to make certain he's not half Kajarian or something." His voice was half-jesting as he winked at me. "He's probably a lot like you." He pulled at the back of his sandy hair.

I flinched at the thought of Otherworlder interrogation or...the Therapy. "Well, that's more than I've done. I only set them off on special occasions." I smoothed out the front of my lab coat where the gentle breeze had flipped up my pocket flaps.

"You need to be more careful. The Protectors are installing more sensitive ones. You won't have 5 seconds anymore to control your emotions."

"How long will it be THIS time? That's another refit this year!" I decided to quickly think calm.

"I didn't see a figure this time. I think they're trying to make us into robots. Fear of Kajar out of hand. Oh, I'll get that door." He scanned his handprint on the security spot, and the door opened.

I took a quick look inside, and not seeing anyone near, I asked, "How do you pronounce it again?"

"Ree-OWN-nuh-ee. And make sure to make the 'ee' sound like you've suddenly run out of air." He pretended to be in deep space without a suit. I frowned at him as several of our fellow
Eicken Project workers approached. They would not approve of Ossy's attitude towards spoken Yeff. But then, he just couldn't see why we couldn't just communicate in Universal Qvarn, a telepathic language most telepathic-communicating species in the galaxy could understand. I didn't really have an answer to why Yeff, either, but it wasn't incredibly difficult to learn enough to communicate...at least I wasn't having trouble understanding it. And I wouldn't have to SPEAK to him-

"Hey, get your mind out of the Gerra Quadrant and listen!" Cissa was always emphatic about everything. I was always surprised the emotion detectors never went off when she spoke. Her auburn hair curled about her face like a crest, especially when she was irritated.

"Sorry, Cissa. Just practicing my Yeff."

"Don't call me Cissa around HERE, please. Keep that for when we're working." She was the only person I knew who could use that irritated a tone and smile at the same time. "Besides, he won't be talking to run-of-the-mill scientists like US. Our seats are way in the back of the conference room-he won't even SEE us." I guess she knew me well enough to know I couldn't get offended at her--we were such good friends I considered her more of a sister. She was slightly taller than I...but only 2 months older.

"Very well, Citsasia, I won't shorten the dignified version of your PRESTIGIOUS name-"

"Cease now. Look, Tanda, Derees, and Vonn don't know what to say." It was true...they didn't know how to kid around since the emotion detectors were sensitized. They were afraid.

"I'm sorry, friends, I really should learn to be more considerate." It was so hard on all of us to have to watch our every comment lest the detectors come. A tiny emotional response could cause...no, I couldn't think of that now.

They acknowledged my apology and quickly began rushing us to our seats. It was 0713 now, and the Director of the Project had come to the front of the room to speak. There must have been nearly 100 of us, all Project scientists, in a room that comfortably could seat no more than that figure. The room was full, every seat taken. The lights began to lower except for several meters of space in the front of the room.

Director Pragate stepped in to the light and began, "I know that each of you are aware of the importance of the Project, but since we have a few minutes, I will tell you things you have not been up to now told." He looked slightly uncomfortable, as if not knowing where to begin. He was obviously not prepared to speak.

"I have been Director only a few short months, but you have felt the changes. More security checks. Adjustments to the emotion detectors. Longer work schedules. Undoubtedly, you have been unhappy with me as a result of this. I am sorry. But after I have explained, you will understand," his red round face became redder, a sharp contrast to his white beard and dark hair. He was much older than my father, but he had seemed to age years these past months. "At least, it is my HOPE." He was having to clear his throat so much, and suddenly he asked an assistant for a breather. We waited while the assistant brought back a red clear cylinder and held it a moment to his throat. Our atmosphere didn't have enough hydrogen in it for good health, a leftover from more wasteful years, and without breathers, no one would live long. But it was unusual for someone to need a dose of hydrogen suddenly-usually the need could be put off without difficulty. I wondered if something was wrong...

"Apologies, friends, I will continue. On your screens you will see the Seven Galaxies as they were before they were Unified..."

Each chair had an attached screen which lit up with the panorama of moving stars.

"...the green stars are our own binary system. Now I add the systems of the Kajarian Empire, in red."

I had seen these star maps often. I wondered what he was going to show us.

"Before the Unified Seven declared war on the Empire, at a time when the Seven were not Unified, we were all in the infancy of space travel. We traveled lifetimes between worlds. There were no diplomats, so there were many misunderstandings. Accidents were common that resulted in civil wars on individual planets. Partnerships were made between worlds in order to conquer provinces on one world. Governments shifted with the winds! Mass starvations, world wars, interplanetary wars, obliterated worlds..."

Some of the points of light went out. "There is the Seven today...and the Empire today. Notice how many worlds are no longer there after only three hundred years. The Seven was created to end wars, to make peace between governments. So, my friends, was the Empire."

Suddenly, the room was noisy with hushed conversations. The Empire was so radically different than even the tremendous differences of the races of the Seven, that most of us assumed they were too warlike to have any doings with peace.

"Quiet please. Let me continue. I know this is surprising to most of you. But let me assure you, negotiations have been in progress between the Empire and the Seven for two hundred years." I saw such surprised looks, I expected the emotion detectors to be set off. But, we of all Areon were the people most likely to control our emotions. I saw the calm wash over the crowd like a fine spray of water. No alarms yet.

"When the Supreme Emperor of the Seven Galaxies assembled diplomats representing every race and formed the government we know today, he found out that the Emperor of the Kajarian had done the same in his six galaxies. These teams of diplomats have been visiting planets in their respective groups, then meeting periodically among themselves for two hundred years. They have made a lot of progress, but not enough to end the war. But, a neutral area has been established somewhere in the Seven where the war will finally end. One will be chosen to meet Eriganh, the Emperor of the Kajarian. They will fight, and the winner's prize will be the thirteen known galaxies of the known universe. It is not known who the One will be, or the galaxy of the contest. Before you discredit me, let me inform you that this word comes from the Supreme Emperor himself. It is not just the legend you have heard from your mothers." He relaxed, looking relieved as if he had been wanting to say this for a long time. It wasn't just his words, his manner; it seemed to come from his thoughts. How odd... His assistant offered him the breather again, but he pushed it away. "This information MUST not leave this room." Wiping sweat from his forehead, he continued, "Now to the part you DO know...the war continues to close on our system. The fighting will soon reach D'garr, which is in proximity to our 4th degree solar system Imrarr-ga. If the Empire reaches there, all Areon must remove to other planetary systems. Fuel is becoming scarce, of course, the reason for the Eicken Project in the first place. We are very close to finding alternative fuels in enough quantities to save ourselves. Ryonne~ has found a partial solution to another problem, the heavy losses of ships. His discovery: Telepathic communication with onboard computers."

Again there was murmuring. Many were unsure about this. Would Areon use this new technology to monitor our thoughts, not just our emotions?

"Ah, he is here. Give your attention now to Ryonne~ of Ye~." He looked absolutely ill now, and his hands were shaking. His assistant had to help him walk into the next room. I could see as he collapsed into a chair. Ryonne~ followed them into the room, a concerned look on his face. I could not hear what was said, but the assistant was shaking his head as he administered the breather once again. It was not working, as the Director slowly turned yellowish and began struggling to breathe. I could feel his panic! Ryonne~ waved the assistant aside, and put his hands on the Director's head.

"What is he doing?" whispered Ossy. "The problem's not with the man's hair!"

I didn't want to answer him. I felt the Director got his orders from the 'Port authorities and was taking blame not his own. Suddenly I heard...singing! I was picking up feelings and images that had to be telepathic, but I knew I couldn't be receiving anything unless it was projected to me. What was happening? I scanned Ossy's face and realized he wasn't aware-

The voice was clear enough to be heard only by a few of us near the doorway, but I couldn't understand the words. It was such an ethereal sound, unlike anything I'd ever heard before. It took me a few moments to trace the sound to Ryonne~'s lips! I watched, unbelieving, as the Director's color changed from yellow to a normal pink. As the song ended, I watched Pragate slump into their arms. I couldn't hear, but I saw the assistant's lips and was sure he said, "Normal RG". He looked happy, so the Director must be all right. Ryonne~ then came out and to the front of the room. Looking around at the faces, I realized I was the only one watching the Director's plight. Everyone else was discussing quietly what he had said. No one but I heard anything! Ossy and Cissa were oblivious to everything but their surety that Kajar could NOT have diplomats.

"Excuse me...most sorry to be late. I will hurry with my presentation...", he continued, and I was surprised to sense strong emotion from him. I could clearly feel worry, not about Director Pragate, but about us. Was he concerned about the emotion detectors, that our concern for the Director would be detected? Was he not aware that the man was not well-liked and perhaps only I would be worried about him?
This is now a much longer chapter. Here's the first few pages, for comparison:

Home Is Not Home
By Dannis

I squinted through the mist at the boxy cluster of buildings ahead of me. It took me close to five mins to walk to them, but I needed this walk. I loved the colors of the bright flower petals; the multicolored foliage. No time after my day's work to walk, and I did not enjoy walking in the rain, even if I had time. My mind raced as my feet tried to keep up with my memories.
“Adia," my twin sister told me, "you should plan your time more carefully. Walks do not have to be squeezed in when you are already in a zip to be there." Her green eyes always glittered when she knew she was right.
"Perhaps I am in a zip, but you know that the Emotion Detectors have just been refitted. I need the walk." I emphasized the statement with a toss of my long red hair.
“Become breathless, and the Emotion Detectors may take it for anger. You need the walk too much. If you were to slow down a little, like me..." I could never be like her. She was the quiet one, the 'good' one. Never set off an ED in her life.
"You got all the emotional control; I cannot just open a dimportal to the Spaceport and expect to hide my excitement from the EDs. Not today."
Maia rolled her eyes dramatically. Thank goodness gestures did not set off EDs, I thought. My sister kept perfect breath control through her favorite avocation: singing.
"Your excitement. You have only been speaking of it for weeks." My twin sighed. "Just because the government of Areon has given special permission for an Otherworlder scientist to share his research with us does not mean our colony is getting any less isolationist, despite your hopes to the contrary. Why should it? Remember, to allow other species on Areon might bring more problems. Especially here in Lilmerica where most of Areon's defense research is; the EDs are more sensitive here and we do not need any emotional species to come in, set them off and disturb our tranquility. Especially as emotional as the Yeff! How many times has the visitor set off the EDs and been questioned on his previous visits?" She paused for a long, slow breath. Green eyes studied me, and I wondered if she thought of the times I set off EDs. One hand gripped the cream-colored table next us, the dining set we barely used together in this time of long work hours.
"Perhaps we have too much tranquility. I am not the only one who complains about EDs and our rigid laws. Many of my coworkers have already found work off-planet."
"If I did not know better, I would think you might look off-planet as well. The government does not view off-planet employment as loyal, either. You know that. Most of them gain passage through unorthodox channels unless their records are exceptionally clean." She might well have added that mine was not, so many ED violations in my past five years on the Eicken Project.
"Maia, you do not understand, and I do not have time to extrap.” My irritation nearly escaped me. “Excuse me, before I miss my weatherless interval." I turned quickly. Faced the cream-colored wall that had no features to differentiate it from the rest of our small deciplex. Other homes appeared much the same. Too much sameness.
As I stepped through the wallportal out onto the walk, mist rose from the lush vegetation. Beautiful red and orange flowers as large as my head towered over me on both sides in front of our house. Red and orange were Mom's favorite colors, and Dad had not cared. I would have had purple hues like the ones of our neighbors to the right. My eyes caught the ED hovering at the intersection of our walkways, about three meters off the ground. Such ugly devices, midnight blue dull metal cylinders with rotating circular fins. If I had comment on their design, the fins would be of a lighter color so the rotation would be visible. Also there would be, not angled circular fins, but rings so they would be pretty. Silver and gold and purple rings. In the right width, ridges to give some wind currents, made of terrilium alloy--calculations raced quickly through my mind--I smiled at the thought. My family would think me mad, wishing to decorate EDs! Except for the flowers, everything, from our clothes to the featureless buildings, were as plain as possible. Not practical to ornate things and people. Waste of valuable time and material. Our lives were as bland as the cream-colored buildings, the drab walks, the muted colors of furniture.
I walked faster. We ARE supposed to try to better each other. After all, we have no violence here in Lilmerica. Emotion Detectors and all, we live peacefully, as long as we all try to conform. Nitrogen saved from control over high emotion benefits all of us until our science can turn to terramods again. We could be out on the Ring where the War is. Our family enjoys many advantages since our parents and I work on the Eicken Project. I only wish we had time to know one another.
Better think about something else; concentrate on the sweet fragrance of the RosFlowers and the brilliant colors of the imported WWyez. Get my mind off the upset; concentrate on the tranquil. Do not get emotional. Conserve precious nitrogen. I passed the deciplexes. Looked at the Aud looming over the sand-colored buildings that comprised the Spaceport. Blue sky added color during our rainless times, but mostly, it was gray with clouds. Unseen collectors gathered energy from the clouds, so there was never thunder, as in the stories Mom told me as a child of the place our people left. She did not enjoy speaking long of it. Most of my questions lay without answer.
Beautiful flowers and fragrant fruits stretched all the way to the Spaceport. Bright colors that differed every day. They contrasted sharply against the low, almost-white boxyness of the rows of deciplexes, warehouses, trade offices and larger research centers. The Aud, in the middle of the Spaceport of Eicken, dwarfed all the other buildings that stood an easy walk from any of the outskirted residence rows. Paths of the same whiteness melted from the sands of the adjoining Barrens. Spread to and from all buildings around the city of Eicken.
Walks soothed me; most of the people I knew saw the mandatory twentymin daily walk as an unwanted interruption. But then, most of the people I knew here worked by the Spaceport: scientists like myself, engineers, info scientists, trade specialists, government workers. All of them serious and industrious. Their work supplanted the War effort. Most of them scoffed at recreation, leaving it to their children; not they did not wish time with their families, but how much life here could change if the War moved closer! I enjoyed the small respite from my rigid work schedule, but I took my work seriously. A breakthrough in the Eicken Project could protect our colony and increase trade. Someday the War will end, and perhaps EDs might become an ugly memory. I felt sure a solution to nitrogen would come easily with the bright scientists of Eicken!
Because of our ever increasing work hours, it seemed I had less time with my parents than I did with my sisters -- if only because Aronna was too young to work -- and Maia, an info scientist, worked from home. I saw both of them every day; some days my path and that of my parents did not cross. And the older I became, it seemed, the more my views differed from my family's. The ED's were a good example.
"Yes, EDs are bothersome, but necessary." Dad shook his silver head. "Most of us set one off perhaps twice in a Standard year, take our scolding from the DFs, and tighten up. It is not cause for rebellion." His blue-gray eyes seemed to tighten, as if obeying his words.
"I do not consider interrogation a simple scolding; words do not cause fainting -- "
"The pain is brief, and does no damage." He gave me a warning look that told me Say no more. I almost set an ED off immediately; I barely calmed myself before my racing heart would bring the DF. Maia and Aronna sided with our parents; but all day long at work, we scientists discussed the things that frustrated us: Emotion Detectors foremost. None of us believed, from a scientific point of view, that a lack of them would cause us to take our work less seriously. Or use drastic amounts of nitrogen; use of our breathers did not set off EDs! We resented the expectation of increasing our workload until we got results. So many experiments to run to get one positive result that might lead to another; yet we also had to maintain discipline and worry over setting off the EDs. We were tired. We were disillusioned. And most of all, we were sick of the War and all the sacrifices it required. Had our forefathers not suffered enough through genetic alterations? I shuddered to think of their hardships: many changes had to be made to adapt their bodies to substitute nitrogen for oxygen. A bitter irony that the science of the time led them to believe nitrogen would always be more plentiful than oxygen here; both escaped from our atmosphere in large quantities through use of the Molecule Mill and so our wasteful past left us in peril. If the War did not end or pass us by, we would not survive another hundred years as a colony. The Core failure of sixty years ago almost ended us. Could we even resurrect the past knowledge of terramods that we needed to save our colony, if using all our resources to protect ourselves from the Kajarians?
My coworkers, they had dreams of romance, of marriage, of leaving Areon to find fortunes on other worlds. They cared not for saving our colony. Our future.
Me, I could not discuss my dreams with anyone. Too busy working to even consider finding time to spend with anyone I might later be courting. I did not want romance under these circumstances; and I certainly did not want to abandon my home. Yet, how would anything change if I lived out my life here? These things were too close to my heart to tell anyone. My coworkers would try to solve my puzzle by some scenario of applying to the Science Council or the Traders Service. Whatever means involved, it meant boarding a ship outward bound. And I did not have a perfect record of emotional control as they did. Such as I would never get Areon's permission to leave; truth by experience. I should merely be satisfied with my life as a scientist and admit my failure to keep my record spotless, accept this situation of my doing. So why, late at night, did I look at the stars with such longing? Lying to myself about wanting to stay? My home never felt as if it were truly home.
"Adia! Walking again! Faster or we will be late." Citstasia Wilnes' impatience hovered on the brink of setting off the EDs. She stood in front of the Trade building, looking quickly from me towards her left, glancing at the Aud with her gray eyes as if it would sprout engines and leave. As she tossed her long auburn hair, it almost slapped a ped, who walked around her towards the left. Except for him, the walkways spread most deserted. My friend and I shared much discomfort over the red in our hair. Most Kajarians had red hair. Anyone with this curse faced avoidance and harsher criticism of work. My holos enjoyed trade despite three inquiries apiece; hers did not pass two, and our relationship seemed more distant with time. Citstasia spoke of little beside opportunity off-planet. Her work suffered greatly; I often did part of hers to save her more criticism, yet my effort had no effect to bring us closer. "We still have three mins, and it takes precisely two point eight to get to the Aud."
"Yes, but it will take point two to find Ossy, Vonn, and -- "
"There are Ossy, Vonn, and Derees by Hangar Four. Oh, and Tanda joins them now. See, Citsa?" I pointed to the nearest of the boxy white featureless buildings. On the other side of the cluster, slightly larger than the other four, stood the Aud. "You were saying?"
"So what do you know about the scientist who is lecturing?" Her voice lacked inflection or enthusiasm. A toss of her head did just that. Her straight auburn hair stayed in place, perfect strands in perfect layers. My hair constantly worried my eyes--
"He is Yeff, has done some interesting research, and is here to discuss his recent breakthrough in server telepathy and the psi particle." I tried not to smile. His holos—I found him very attractive—and he looked my age. Futile dreams!
"Infoserver telepathy. So he is giving the government a way to make EDs able to invade our thoughts? I thought the government of the noble moon Ye~ was on our side. Someone should tell him he is supposed to be helping us fight the Kajarians."
Why did I even think to speak? "The main purpose of the device is to try to help our pilots command more efficiently to save ships, and get information from captured Kajarians, very useful for espion. It might help us to catch up to them before they absorb us all." She knew that. So why did I bother telling her? I silently wished I had thought for a millimin before opening my mouth. She always teased me with those halfserious statements. I knew her and the others for the last five years, yet I did not feel that I knew them at all as far as predicting their reactions. How did she manage to stay one step ahead of the EDs while I-- No, not now.
"Director Pragate will begin the prez." Citsa ignored my embarrassment, as usual. "I hope he does not speak so long this time. Last week I most fell to sleep, waiting for him to finish." Her face seemed to carry only a few expressions, as if she were part Bisillip.
"You and I. But, he is new. Not experienced in speaking to groups--"
"Too busy increasing our work so we see less of our families, then he speaks to try to justify it. More of us are seeking work off-planet, so--" she stopped as we came to where the others stood and they joined us.
"Apparently you believe me now. I did say they would have to use the Aud since there are so many of us now." Ossy Koch spoke with a sweep of his sandy hair.
"Ossy. You are so glad when you are right, are you?" Citsa frowned at him.
"Especially in the lab. Did you notice my brilliant breakthrough of earlier today? I discovered a complex organic to entice Adia's sister Maia to fall madly in love with me!" His light brown eyes seemed to sparkle with delight at our mocking reaction. "I will choose her green eyes over your blue ones any time. Her hair is even more copper than yours. And longer, too. Her serene manner--" he dodged my swat.
"Just wait till they clone your twin and see how I carry on about how much betterlook he is than you." Maia and I were nearly identical twins. Both of us preferred to keep our hair long; the same length and style, and our curls even curled under in the same places. Ossy always tried to persuade me to change mine, but Maia and I had no problem with looking alike. Why could he not leave me alone? My halfhearted attempts at the joking we once enjoyed brought me nothing but irritation. It seemed much of it left them laughing at me. Had I lost my ability to enjoy their company?
We all strode faster to keep up with him. In the distance, the yellow suns shone brightly in a blue cloudless sky. A few more mins in this beautiful scene would certainly improve things for me. The rain always destroyed the little pleasantries of my life. I loved the plant life on our colony, but the price of almost constant heavy rainfall exasperated me.
"Our guest has been detained by Otherworlder Authorities--" Ossy smiled, and I wished to slap him.
"Otherworlder Authorities? He is not in trouble, is he?" The thought of anyone having to answer to the government made me flinch.
"Well--I am not sure, but I heard he has set off three emotion detectors since he came here yesterday. I guess they want to make certain he is not half Kajarian or something." His voice was half-jesting as he winked at me. "He is probably a lot like you." He pulled at the back of his wavy hair.
I trembled at the thought of interrogation or--the Therapy. "That is more than I have done. I only set them off on special occasions." I smoothed out the front of my lab coat where the gentle breeze flipped up my pocket flaps. They had seen me set off EDs, and never let me forget. I felt so out of place with them now. Even the pockets of my lab coat marked me as a nonconformist; to be Areonian one must wear plain clothing and practice austerity. Under the lab coat I wore my usual purple dress, ankle length and featureless, although I progged the clothing formers to give me pockets on my dresses as well. It helped me to have somewhere to put my hands when my emotions threatened to bring me trouble: I kept several objects there to hold onto. Perhaps a childish need for something magical to protect me, but just wrapping my fingers around the smooth cube-shaped crystal I found recently somehow comforted me. I did not even know what it was. I appeased myself with the thought of my next trip to the Barrens where I had found it. So long since my last free day. Perhaps another would be announced soon.
"You need to be more careful. The Protectors are installing more sensitive EDs. You will not have but five seconds anymore to control your emotions." Ossy gestured towards the floating dark blue cylinder at the corner of the Aud. It looked different; slightly larger, and the rotating fins were thinner and angled more closely to the surface of the cylinder. I could see the DFs reforming an ED a good twenty meters on down the walk, the bluish glow of the tools' energy reflecting on the dull dark blue surface of their metal hands. Their shapes changed according to the work they performed and the tools needed. To me, they resembled floating disembodied arms with ever-changing numbers of fingers. Ugly, like the EDs. I would make them with heads and smiling faces. Maia liked to write personality progs; together we could make inorganic simulants to do maintenance and interact with people at the same time. Such insanity! The impact of Ossy’s statement jerked my mind from its distraction. Five seconds! Could I slow my breathing so quickly?
"That is another refit this year." I took a long, slow breath.
"They are trying to make us into simulants." We stood before the small featureless boxy extrusion beside the wallportal. The light of the genescan read us silently. After it disappeared back into the beigeness of the wall, we entered the Aud.
Our eyes took a min to adjust. The Aud held one hundred of us and our colleagues filled most of the seats. These buildings aged two hundred Standard years, never updated. Looked like something out of the holograms of the Colonists; the floor sloped downward from back to front, although now that we had terminals at every seat, the antique configuration served no useful purpose. The seats arched in neat vertical rows from back to front, self-adjusting to keep each person sitting at a slightly uncomfortable straightness to encourage attention. Rows jammed together tightly to fit many of us into a small space. The seats themselves were dark blue crescents set onto a post, narrow even when at full self-adjusted width. No padding of any sort, typical of our austere seats. Once I sat upon an Otherworldly chair in the Trade Office, a gift from the Yeff King. It felt so comfortable, I did not wish to leave even though my business there was not pleasant. Why could we not have comfortable seats? And, what manner of species enjoyed chairs that emitted a warmth like that? I imagined them as more caring about the welfare of their workers, although my attitude probably did not reflect reality. I could not understand the attitudes of our blonde-haired Kleideu neighbors, their insistence on the differences of their language, their culture. How then, could I understand a species so radically different from my own? Somehow, I expected to learn something about the Yeff from this presentation, and yet I tried to convince myself that I would only have more questions, not more answers. My practicality failed to convince my imagination.
I leaned towards Ossy. "How do you pronounce it again?" He did a lot of trading for our section, which put him into a position to see the man in the Traders Circle. Ye~ supplied us with minerals for shipbuilding.
"Ree-OWN-nuh-ee. And make sure to make the 'ee' sound like you have suddenly run out of air." He pretended to be in deep space without a suit. I frowned at him. The Project officials would not approve of Ossy's attitude, even though common scientists like us would not have an opportunity to speak to him here and violate protocols. I wondered if the Otherworlder's manner would be as comfortable as his world's chairs. What would I say to him if I had the chance? Sadly, I knew I would surely offend him by my utter lack of skill with foreign languages. With a discreet motion, I pulled my breather from my pocket. Held the red cylinder to my throat and enjoyed relief. I seemed to need mine more often than--
"Hey, get your mind out of the Gerra Region and listen!" Citsa always seemed emphatic about everything. It surprised me the emotion detectors never went off when she spoke. Her auburn hair curled about her face like a crest, especially when her irritation rose.
“What was that, Citsa?"
"Do not call me Citsa here, please. Keep nicknames for when we are working." Her gray eyes narrowed as she scanned the Aud. "I asked you if you had seen Director Pragate; he is so strict on punctuality, it is odd that he would be late." Citstasia Wilnes, the only person I knew who could use that irritated a tone and smile at the same time! "What is this fascination of yours with Otherworlders? Learning to pronounce an Otherworlder's name. An utter waste of time! I am not pleased about having to interrupt my work for this presentation, and he is the cause. Besides, our seats are near the back of the Aud. He will not notice us. Perhaps this will not take long." She gave a loud sigh. Citsa was slightly taller than I, but only two years older. I found her almost as difficult to understand as Ossy. She seemed to think of me as far younger than she and needing instruction.

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