Receiving glowing remarks from the art professor, I felt great. After class, Ana, Bobby and I walked towards the AutoCafe library, me with an upright posture to my thorax and head. I felt self-conscious since these two towered over me, but that eased up as we talked. I was considered short by trakor standards, but being around humans made me feel shorter. Still, it felt great to have human friends in person.
“Yeah, I miss North Shore,” said Bobby, looking down. “The surfing around here is fine, but nothing like the killer waves at Pipe Line.”
“I’d like to try surfing someday,” I clicked. “I’ve seen it on vids, and it seems fun.”
Ana looked down at me. “Won’t you drown?”
I shrugged. “I think I can do it. My lower airholes close when I get them wet, and I can close the airholes on top of my head.”
We walked through a copse of trees near the math buildings with a number of students passing by. Summer classes at the university were in full swing.
Ana gestured to me. “But from what the rebels told me, trakor anatomy doesn’t allow for swimming because…”
I cut her off. “I think it will work!” I looked up at her and ducked my feelers down. “Sorry, but that’s what all my foster parents keep saying, that trakors and deep water don’t mix.” Actually, they said trakors submerge underwater, but I preferred the human way.
Ana smiled. “Then we can head to a beach to try it out.”
Bobby add in “Hey, count me in.”
I clicked a bit more softly. “Although I’d need to get something to wear.” With trakors avoiding swimming like the plague, my kind didn’t delve into swimsuit fashions. Fear began to grow in my rear abdomen.
Ana said “Or we can go naked.”
I shuddered. Traditional conservative trakor culture tended to view nudity like human Victorian standards of centuries ago. “I could never do that.” The fear rose up my abdomen towards my thorax base.
“Hey, the first time Ana took me to a clothing optional place, I hesitated.” Bobby motioned his hands down his body. “But after a while, it seemed natural.”
Ana reached over and patted his shoulder. “If Margret doesn’t want to, then don’t push her.” She looked down at me. “Sorry if I upset you.”
My feelers began to shake. I wrapped my arms around my thorax. “I… I…” I stopped walking as I began to shiver.
Ana and Bobby stopped walking, looking at me. “Margret, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you.” Ana knelt down to my level.
Bobby also knelt down. “Yeah. We won’t go.”
My head began to ache as my fear grew up my thorax to my head. I clutched my arms tighter, my whole body shaking as my sight began to fade. I couldn’t say a thing.
People ran around us in chaos near the library. Bobby lay on the ground, blood leaking from his head, a vacant stare on his face.
“No!” Ana yelled as she put her hand on his head trying to staunch the blood flow.
I activated my phone “Request emergency AutoDoc! My location! Now!”
A dangerous man wearing a No Bugs Allowed t-shirt was trying to work his way to us. “Begone from this planet!” He raised his pipe as he struggled to get through.
I looked up at him, whistling loud in fear.
I lay on the ground on my side, my arms still wrapped tight around my mid-thorax, breathing hard.
Both Ana and Bobby knelt by me. “Margret! Margret!”
Oh my god! Not again! “I… Uh… What…” I forced myself to unclench, stilling my feelers. My phone worked to translate my ramblings.
Ana pulled her phone out. “I’m calling for an AutoDoc…”
“No!” I lurched, propping my thorax and head upright. “No doctors!”
Ana held her phone while looking at me, going silent.
Bobby motioned to me. “You fell over for a few seconds. What happened?”
The fear in my body receded back to my abdomen. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” I forced myself to my four feet, shifting my dress. I picked up my backpack from the ground. “It was nothing.”
Ana still held her phone. “That was not nothing! You submerged!”
I faced her. How the hell did she know that term? That’s right, she worked with trakors in Cuba. I calmed my feelers upright, then put my hands in front of me. “Please, I’m fine. I just need to get some food.” This happened a number of times growing up. I managed to keep my episodes from my foster parents, but they caught me a few times. I always woke up knowing something bad would happen…
“Oh High Empress, oh High Mother!” I began to panic as I remembered my vision. “I don’t want to go to the library!” I got my phone, then projected a map of the university onto the ground. “We need to go there!”
Ana looked to where I pointed. “The medical school AutoCafe? That’s a long ways away…”
I cut her off. “I want to go there!” I put my phone back onto my arm, then began to walk, tugging on her blouse and his shirt.
Bobby followed along. “Eh, why not?”
Ana looked to the library. “But all of the AutoCafes are the same.”
I yanked harder on her blouse. “Please! We have to go there!” I looked up at her, my feelers quivering.
Ana smiled. “Not a problem, Margret.” She looked back to the library. “It seems a little crowded anyway.”
I whistled in relief. As my fear subsided, I struggled to explain myself. “I’ve had a few seizures as a kid.” Well, more than a few. “My foster parents wanted me to see a specialist medic, but my mom mandated to us No Doctors Ever!”
“Why?” Bobby asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but she installed a fear of doctors on us larvae.” I looked up to Bobby. “I even considered becoming a doctor, but genetics and chemistry won out.”
Bobby grimaced. “Then you won’t like me. I’m pre-med, biochemistry major.”
I shrugged again. “I’m fine with a human doctor.”
That made Bobby smile. “Thanks.”
Ana patted him on the shoulder. “Hey, maybe you can study with Margret’s assistance. She has a PhD in chemistry.”
Bobby looked at Ana. “Really? Oh man, that rocks! I need it!” He looked at me. “That is, if you aren’t busy.”
I clicked laughed. “Sure, sure.” From everything I heard, human and trakor species had the same level of intelligence. I had spent a number of sessions tutoring other trakors, I could teach a human.
We walked for a few minutes before we reached the campus medical school, a series of spacious buildings that doubled as the community hospital. It didn’t have a lot of trees, but it felt safe. There weren’t that many people here, I even spotted a few trakors walking about.
We stood in line for the AutoCafe dispensary, with Bobby holding his arms out to his sides, pretending to windmill. “Yeah man, there I was, hitting that killer wave then,” He smacked one hand down to the other. “Pau! Wipeout, dude!”
Ana rolled her eyes as she approached the AutoCafe machine. “Yeah, yeah, Duke Kahanamoku, I’ve heard that story before.”
I twitched a feeler to him, followed with a smile. “But I haven’t. Please go on.” His stories filled me with excitement.
Ana glanced back at me with a smile. “You may regret your words, young lady.” She pointed a thumb back to Bobby. “He loves to tell them.” She faced the machine and placed her order.
Bobby smiled at me. “I think we will be great friends.” He held his hands up, taking a step back. “But if I get over-talkative…”
I clicked laugh. “It’s a deal, Bobby.”
After Bobby placed his order, I approached. At least it accommodated trakor height. “Recognize Margret Anderson.”
The machine responded in Unionist “Please move your feelers.”
I twitched both feelers.
“Identity confirmed, please enter your order.”
I had planned for this day for years. “I want a deluxe cheeseburger, and chocolate cheese cake.”
“Those human foods contain dairy cow protein, not compatible with trakor biology. As an alternative, we have…”
What? “Just put in the additive enzymes! I worked on them for my advanced degree, and…”
The machine interrupted me. “We have the additives ready, but final approval from High Instructor Anderson hasn’t been finalized.”
Oh High Empress! My feelers stood straight up in frustration. “I’m Margret Anderson! I approve!”
“Standby. We will contact Anderson for final approval.”
“I’m right here! I said I approve!” What was wrong with this SI?
My arm phone alerted. “SI AutoCafe from University of Florida at Orlando requests approval for…”
I grabbed my phone. “Yes! I approve!” I thought I did all of this last week.
“Standby for identity confirmation. Please wiggle…”
I over wiggled my feelers to my phone. “There! I’m wiggling!” My loud clacking drew looks from Ana and Bobby.
“Identity confirmed, thank you.” The call ended.
As I put my phone back onto my arm, the AutoCafe said “Approval verified, order entered with additives.”
I turned away to face my friends. “One of my Advanced Degree research projects was an enzyme to allow for trakors to digest cow dairy. I entered the formulas for all AutoCafes last week, but apparently, I didn’t give final approval.” I smiled, ducking my head down.
“Is that like that milk enzyme for humans who can’t digest dairy products?” asked Bobby.
I shrugged my feelers. “Something like that, but with mine, I had to elevate the meta-enzyme to…”
Ana held her hand up. “Please, spare me. I had enough chem lessons back in Cuba to last a lifetime.”
Bobby smiled at her. “That’s why you’re a fashion marketing major?”
Ana smiled back to him, then me. “You got it.” She motioned to the two of us. “I’ll leave chemicals to you two.”
After a five minute wait, we received our orders from the dispenser. We walked to a human table near a tree, and proceeded to eat. I took my portable chair and elevated it to reach the table. That first bite into a human cheeseburger was oh so good. I gave out a low whistle. “Yummy.”
“You got the same order?” asked Bobby.
I looked to his plate. “Yes. During my research projects, I used myself as a Rokno test subject.”
Ana said “Yeah, I know that most human foods are fine for trakor digestion with only minor enzyme additions.” She bit into an onion ring.
I gave a quick nod. “That’s right, But milk protein turned out to be a tricky one to overcome.” I swallowed a bite of cheese cake. “I spent a number of nights throwing up from failed attempts.” I looked at Ana’s meal. “You got Spiced Royal Crawlers?” That made my tasters tingle.
Ana shrugged as she picked up a caterpillar. “I ate lunch with the rebels a lot. When they arrived in Cuba, one of the first things they did was to start a monarch butterfly nursery.” She held up her spiced crawler. “They aren’t direct from the source, but they taste great.” She bit into it.
Bobby winced. “I’ll let you eat it.” He took a bite of his cheese cake. “I’ll eat my burger and Lumna cheese cake.”
Right then, our phones went on alert. We pulled them out.
“What?” exclaimed Ana. “There was an anti-trakor demonstration…”
“…at the library,” finished Bobby. They both looked at me.
“You’re right!” My vision came true again. I glanced at Bobby. Not completely. I shuddered my rear abdomen.
“How did you know?” asked Bobby as examined his phone.
I looked straight ahead, focusing on Bobby then Ana. “I…” I ducked my feelers down. “Please don’t tell anyone.”
Ana asked “Can you predict the future?”
“No!” I clacked. “I mean, it just happens. I don’t know.”
Bobby raised his eyebrow. “Kind of like my tutu.”
I jerked my gaze to him. “What?”
He shrugged. “Every once in a while, my grandma would have a seizure for a few seconds. When she recovered, she would be fine, but not saying a thing about it.”
“Huh.” From everything I’ve studied, trakors and humans were alike despite originating from different planets. Maybe this was another similar trait.
“And we would always avoid a dangerous situation.”
I ducked my head and feelers. “Yes, I saw…” I hesitated clicking what I saw. “People running around us.” I held my hands up. “Please don’t tell anyone.”
Ana reached out and grasped my hand. “Thanks, sister.”
I smiled to her then Bobby. “Thanks for being my friends.”
Bobby reached out and held both my hand and Ana’s. “Always.”
We ate the rest of our meal while watching at the news on our phones. Oh sticky, that riot looked bad.