Daria understood my discomfort of the morning, and so she drove us to my favorite restaurant, The Wooden Bowl. There were two spaces open together on the floor, so we sat their and joined the other diners. A woman brought us each a bowl and spoon, and we dug into the food before us. Today we were having a spicy stew with meat, vegetables, and grains. Colored lights danced along the ceiling, and we were surrounded by the hum of familiar language, familiar voices, clothes in familiar smells. There’s no place like home. There was a moment of silence when two humans entered, a male and a female, but once they sat in the section next to ours, conversation resumed.
Daria looked at me. “It can’t be easy for them. Did you hear what they were expecting?”
“I don’t listen to rumors.”
“No, I think it’s true. They come from a race of conquerers, and they thought they’d just show up and take over whatever was here. That’s their history — whoever is wherever they want to be becomes subservient to them. They assume that they’re the highest form of civilization. Imagine their suprise to arrive here and instead of finding a vast emptiness to colonize, they find a civilization that’s greater than theirs and that isn’t interested in putting up with any nonsense!”
I smiled. Yes, I’d heard those rumors, but didn’t believe them. I didn’t see anything today to convince me that they were conquering heroes bringing civilization to the universe! So much for human arrogance.
I was about to say something along those lines to Daria, when I realized something. “You’ve been in your female side for quite a while lately. Are you pregnant?”
She smiled and nodded. “Weldon and I decided to become partners. We decided we’d start as two, but we’re open to including more partners as time passes. I was hoping you’d come to the ceremony. It’s the woman’s ceremony.”
“Well, of course! Can I bring Thalla?” Daria had no problem with that, and I thought about the woman’s ceremony. Sometimes it seemed weird to me that our religion had some separate roles and rules for males and females, as if we were each only one or the other. No one could ever explain to me why that was. So while everyone at the woman’s ceremony had to be female, the majority were quite capable of becoming male as soon as they left the room. What was Sophia thinking when the rules were written? And what would she think about that convent?
After lunch, Daria and I went over to see Zuleika, who was in charge of the human sector. Needless to say, she was not happy about the whole school issue. It is crucial to her that the humans become integrated into our society, and that begins with sending their children to our schools. “The other provinces don’t have this problem! The group that was sent to Samayoa had no problem assimilating. They fit right in! What’s wrong with this group?”
“I think it’s a religion thing,” Daria said. “Talking to our group, some are a religion called Christian and some have no religion at all. The group that went to that place were a religion called Muslim. Some of their customs were remarkably like ours already, so it was easier for them to fit in, at least in some ways.”
“Maybe this whole ‘human sector’ thing was a mistake. They’re too separate from each other, as well as from us.”
“But their area is already built up, their way. You can’t send water back upstream!”
“No, but we have the new Kolodzieczak compound finished.”
“You’re not going to put them in there! What about all the families on the waiting list?”
“No, no. I’ll talk to the housing director. What I’m thinking of is plugging in the human families into the housing evacuated by the families moving in to the Kolodzieczak compound. They would still be with a few of their kind, but surrounded by ours. Then we can reclaim their sector. What were we thinking?”
When we got outside and back to the sled, there was something inside it. The wroting on it was in English, so I handed it to Daria. “What is it?”
“It’s a book. In English. The front shows the name: Rolled-Up Streets. But there’s a thing on the inside cover. It says … OK, I can’t pronounce those words. But after that it says I’m a very special book. You see, I’m traveling around the world making new friends. I hope I’ve met another friend in you. Please go to http://www.BookCrossing.com and enter my BCID number (shown below). You’ll discover where I’ve been and who has read me, and can let them know I’m safe here in your hands. Then … READ and RELEASE me! Then there’s a number. Somebody’s got to be kidding!”
“So where is this http://www.BookCrossing.com place? Is it in the human sector?”
“I don’t know. Really, I can’t imagine that many of us even read English, so I don’t know what the whole point is!”
“Just don’t tell me we have to go back there! Not today!”
“No, not today. I will go back to the Legal Center. Where do you want to be dropped off?”
“Home is good.”