“Though it seemed to Geoffrey that his temperature was rising, the readout on his helmet visor showed no actual increase.
“Me?” he said. “But I’m a .”
“You’re a sweetie,” said Guneel. “I’m just saying I like you a lot. Is that so terrible?”
“Course not,” he said. “You just surprised me.”
“Surprised myself,” said Guneel. “Come on, I want to show you my favorite parts of town.”
“Now?” asked Geoffrey, “We have class. And it’s not like no one will notice I’m missing.”
Guneel tapped Geoffrey’s visor with her top left hand.
“Anybody home in there?” she asked. “I can show you telepathically. You’ll see everything better with your eyes closed.”
The human boy smiled and shut his eyes. Soon distinct images appeared behind his eyelids and a mental slideshow began, with scenes from different areas of Doltal City.
Yet despite the clarity of Guneel’s transmission, Geoffrey still had trouble making them out. The colors were so different.
“You see into the infrared spectrum, don’t you?” he asked. The question made him feel very grown up.
“Noo nee nanno infrared spectrum,” said Guneel. “Is that all you have to say?”
“Sorry,” said Geoffrey. “I can’t believe you can hey what’s that?”
Guneel told Geoffrey to “zoom in on the image and, after a couple of false starts, his mind had enlarged a strange ovoid object, not far from the shore of a nearby lake. Guneel hunched her four shoulders.
“Never noticed that before,” she said. “Must have figured it was a clump of vulonkra reeds.”
“Those reeds have insignia on them,” said Geoffrey.
“You’re gonna break the translation grid with fancy words like that,” said Guneel. “You mean that pattern of triangles, dots and squiggles?”
“Doesn’t your space fleet put a logo or some writing on its ships?” Geoffrey asked.
“Maybe,” said Guneel, “but not that kind. Our ships aren’t round like that, either.”
“So it’s from one of your allies?” asked the human boy.
But, as the Doltalyi teenager explained, her homeworld was the only one with a space fleet in that entire sector of the galaxy.
“The rest of the worlds are still kind of excited about having electricity,” she said.
The low clang of a huge gong signaled the end of Recess.
“We better get in,” said Geoffrey. “If that lake isn’t too far away, I’d love to get a closer look after class.”
“Not too far,” said Guneel, “though I doubt we could make it there and back before dark. And, excuse me, but aren’t you worried about ripping your encounter suit?”
Geoffrey smacked his gloved hands together.
“Like being in prison,” he said. “You’re right, I can’t go. And anyway, my mom.
“Yeah, my mom’s the same,” said Guneel. “But if you can hang out until the weekend, I can roll over to the lake and link minds with you, so you can see everything I do.”
“Roll over?” asked Geoffrey.
In a flash, Guneel had curled herself up into a perfect sphere.
“Like this,” she said. Before Geoffrey could blink, she’d zoomed off toward the school’s main dome.
“Slow is for losers,” she said into his mind. “See you in class.”
For the next four Doltalyi hours, the curious human boy wondered what they’d discover at the lake. He was sure he’d seen the ship in Guneel’s images before. And, toward the end of the school day, he realized that the ship’s configuration reminded him of an image he’d seen in an article back home.
“It couldn’t be,” he whispered.
“What are you mumbling about?” Guneel’s thoughts wanted to know.
“I’m sure I’ve seen a holovid about ships like the one at the lake,” thought Geoffrey. “EarthGov ran into the species that built them around a hundred-fifty cycles ago. You know, back when it was setting up its first colonies in the Andromeda galaxy.”
“OK, I have no idea where that is,” Guneel’s mind grumbled. “We probably call it something else.”
“Yeah,” thought Geoffrey. “Anyway, I learned about them in school: a nasty bunch of reptilians called the Tractari.”
“Now, don’t go all biggoty on me,” responded Guneel.
Geoffrey started to reply, but was distracted by his teacher, who was handing back his dismal math quiz.
“What? No, nothing like that,” he thought. “Just these particular reptilians. They were kind of evil.”
A moment later, the last class of the day was over and the two friends were back outside.
“So? Who were they?” Gunnel asked out loud. “Thieves? Sadists? Killers?”
Geoffrey’s head shook inside his helmet.
“Real estate developers,” he said.
(To be continued)
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