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Jeremy

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Chapter 08

      The guard eyed Jeremy wearily, as Jeremy walked by on his way off the ship. Jeremy nodded to him, and stretched. He figured he'd grab a shower, then meet Kathy and Patrick for dinner. He was still thinking about how he was going to spend his evening, when he realized someone was walking next to him.

      "Ambassador," Jeremy said, in greeting.

      "Jeremy," Querik replied. "How are you doing?"

      "Better, thank you. That technique you gave me, the box, is really helpful."

      "I'm glad to hear that. You do seem less stressed."

      "It still comes," Jeremy replied wryly, "but I'm getting better are realizing it and throwing it in the box."

      "Good." The kelsirian was silent, as they kept walking.

      "Did you want something else?"

      "Actually, yes. I was wondering if you could give me a tour of the station?"

      "Didn't they give you one, when you got here?"

      "They showed me the command center, administrative areas, but I've never seen the rest of the station."

      "Really?"

      "Yes, I'm ashame to say that until now, I hadn't really taken much of an interest in your people."

      "Why now?"

      "You. You're the first human I've gotten to know. Everyone else I've interacted with here is very professional, but rather impersonal. It's made me curious about how your people live."

      "I had been planing on meeting some friends for dinner."

      "I see."

      "But, I'm sure they won't mind if I skip today." He sent both of them a quick message, explaining he'd been pulled into official business, and wouldn't be able to make it. "Where would you like to start? But first, I need to stop by my room to drop my tools." He lifted the bag he was carrying. It was a short walk, since he'd already been heading that way.

      "Please ignore the mess," Jeremy said, once inside his room, putting the bag on the bed and lookign around at the clothes all over the floor, the pile of old flimsy, designs he'd drawn over the years. "I keep meaning to clean it up, but I never seem to get to it."

      Querik looked around at the small room, but didn't comment on the disorder. "Do you have families here?"

      "Of course. A lot of the people who work here are married, and have kids."

      "Kids? Oh, cubs. Yes, that's good. And you have a system of education for them, schools?"

      "Yes, we have one here, it's a bit small, since there aren't that many children."

      "Could I see it?"

      "I guess." Jeremy pulled out his datapad and checked it. He didn't know how long the school had students here. Being single, he'd never had to know about that. He found out that it was running much later than on earth, classes ran until six. Probably because most parents worked until then, he figured. He found out where it was located, and guided the ambassador there.

      The door to the classroom opened, before he could knock on it. It was located at the back of the class, and the teacher looked over her student at them.

      "Can I help you?" she asked.

      Jeremy stuttered a bit. "Sorry to disturb you," he eventually managed. "This is the kelsirian ambassador, Querik. He wanted to see what one of our classroom looked like." The kids had turned when the door opened, and their eyes were wide. Jeremy noted that the children ranged from eight to twelve.

      Querik was looking over the class also, his ears twitching.

      "Oh, it's no bother. Ambassador, do you want to come to the front of the class?" she asked. Querik did, and all th eyes followed him.

      "Now class. This is a kelsirian. You've seen pictures before, but you see that he's different from them. Are you typical of a kelsirian, ambassador?"

      "Well, that would depend. My features are typical of kelsirians from the west, in the mountains." He looked down at himself. "Although I'm probably more heavy set than many. All those hours sitting behind a desk." That made some of the kids chuckle.

      "Does anyone have questions for the ambassador?" she asked, and many hands went up.

      "Natalie," she pointed at a ten year old girl, who stood.

      "Are you related to cats?"

      "Natalie!" she exclaimed. "What kind of questions is that?" the girl sat down, and looked like she might cry.

      "Please," Querik said, "it's a perfectly understandable questions, and one even your scientist asked, when they first met my people." He looked at the child. "Natalie, no, I'm not related to the cats your people keep as pets. We look similar, but out genes are setup differently. Do you know what genes are?" the girl shook her head. A boy, looking to be about her age, two tables behind her raised his hand.

      "Steven." The teacher said.

      "Genes is the string of ADN that's in all our cells. The way the ADN is arranged on that string is what makes each of us different."

      "It's called DNA, Steven," the teacher corrected, "but that's a very good explanation."

      "The way my DNA is arranged," Querik picked up, "is different than that of your cats. Actually, it's much closer to yours." That engendered amazement. "What are you studying currently?" he asked the teacher.

      She looked at the class. "Who wants to tell the ambassador what you've been learning?" all the hands went up. She pointed to one of the older girls. "Daniella."

      She stood. "We're learning history. Like how in twenty-one sixty-three we built the first ship capable of going faster than light, the Armstrong. And how twenty years later we founded the first colony."

      "Class, did you know that the Armstrong, was actually the ship that made first contact with the kelsirian?" the teacher asked. Heads were shaken. "Yes. In twenty-three oh-six, the Armstrong was exploring the edge of what we then called 'known space' when it came across another ship. It took some time, but they were eventually able to talk together, and that's how we met the kelsirian, and learned about the federation. Today, the kelsirians are supporting us as we go through the process of being admitted in the federation." More amazement from the children.

      "I want to thank you for letting me visit," Querik said, looking at the children.

      "It was our pleasure, wasn't it children?"

      "Yes miss Montegue." The class answered unison.

      Querik rejoined Jeremy, and they exited the classroom.

      "Where else?" he asked.

      "What do you do for recreation?"

      "Well, there's the rec room, we have a theater, a couple of sport arenas."

      "Can we see them?"

      "Sure, there's even a movie playing tonight." He consulted the pad. "Although we probably want to avoid that.

      "Why is that?"

      Jeremy hesitated. "They're playing 'Invasion'."

      Querik tilted his head. "What's that?"

      He didn't answer immediately. Now that he'd gotten to know the kelsirian, he wasn't sure he wanted them to know about that movie. "It's an old movie. It was made a couple of years after the first encounter, maybe forty years ago? It's about how earth defends itself from a kelsirian invasion." He couldn't look at the ambassador.

      "We would never do such a thing."

      "I know." Jeremy replied, "and believe it or not, that's not actually the worst part of the movie. It's comedy, it was made to make us laugh. And in it, kelsirians are portrayed as incompetent buffoons." Jeremy could remember watching it for the first time while at university, and finding it hilarious. Now he was ashamed of that.

      "I see," Querik said, neutrally. "Is such view typical of how we are perceived?"

      Jeremy though back on reviews of old movies he'd watched with his friends, back then. "For a time. I think before we got to know your people better, it was comforting to think of you in ways that made you non threatening, or to demonize you, make you monsters we always defeat."

      "And now?"

      Jeremy had to think about it, he wasn't much of a movie goer anymore. "I haven't seen many movies recently, but the few I have, you've been allies, or enemies, but more as real people, rather than a laughing stock."

      Querik nodded thoughtfully. "It's good to know we are viewed as people, now."

      "You really shouldn't take movies too seriously." Jeremy added quickly, "they're for entertainment. A lot of them make fun of ourselves."

      "You have no need to worry," Querik smiled. "We also make movies, in which we make fun of ourselves, and others."

      "Us?" Jeremy asked, uncertain if he wanted to really no.

      "Not that I'm aware of, like you I don't watch many of them, and you are a fairly recent addition. We have a lot of other races to use for our amusement in those."

      "Which ones?"

      "Well, the taournians are regular villains, an the saladins often clowns."

      By then they had reach the rec center, with his game tables, discussion areas and quieter spaces for those who preferred reading. Then he showed him the arenas. All unoccupied at this hour. And finally the theater. They stayed at the back, and watched for a moment, as a team of kelsirian attackers shot at the main character, and missed him, even though they were less than ten feet away, and he wasn't moving. The main character took them down, one shot each. Jeremy found he couldn't look, and the laughter in the crowd embarrassed him.

      "I'm surprised that your people were able to get kelsirian participate in making this movie. While we are able to make fun or ourselves, we do have some pride in who we are.

      "We didn't. The movie is digital, it doesn't have any living actors."

      "Are many of your movies done that way?" Querik asked, surprised.

      "All of them, as far as I know. I'm not sure why you'd use living people to make a movie, they could get hurt. Not to mention they'd have to obey the laws of physic."

      "That's reasonable. We take pride in our people being recorded. We have a large industry devoted to making vids. They even own a few light year of empty space where they can record battles."

      Jeremy looked at him, amazed. "Isn't that dangerous, and expensive?"

      "It can be, but they are as careful as possible, and danger is part of life. Unlike what I've noticed, reading about humans, we don't look to make our lives immune from danger, we accept it as part of it."

      Jeremy nodded. "You did mention your people were warriors, I guess it makes sense that warriors wouldn't shy away from danger?"

      "And how about you, Jeremy. Are you a warrior?"

      Jeremy laughed. "No. I'm no warrior. I'm just an engineer with stress trouble."

      Querik tilted his head and regarded him. "You should think more highly of yourself. But for now I think I should retire. Would you accompany me to me quarters?"

      "Sure."

      Once there, Querik had him wait while he retrieved something. He came back to the door, and handle a gray cube to Jeremy. He looked at it, about two inches on all sides, no discernible features.

      "It emits a vibration that should help you sleep better."

      "What makes you think I have trouble sleeping," Jeremy chuckled.

      Querik smiled. "Lets say it's an educated guess."

      "It's a good guess, thanks."

      "It is my pleasure. And Jeremy, I am happy to know you are feeling better."

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