I arrived home just as my children did. Meliadora held a mysterious package, refusing to say what was in it. The sparkle in her eyes, though, told me that it was going to be a nice surprise of some sort, for someone! Her older sister, Jacintha, rushed past me to the newspad, eager to communicate with the same friends she’d just spent the entire week with. The youngest climbed on my back for a ride into our home.
My mother and Thalla were in the kitchen, cooking. There was also pipe music coming from the other room, which meant one of my sisters was home as well. I put Meliadora down and reached behind the quilt for a cup. My mother had made this quilt herself, when she was about the age of Jacintha. The design was perfect for the kitchen, and matched the cups and dishes that hid behind it during the day.
As soon as I sat on the floor, our pet dog zoomed in and started licking my face. The humans had brought cats and dogs with them on the ship. Of course, they didn’t all survive the trip; neither did all the humans. But it didn’t take long to discover that you really didn’t need many dogs or cats: They were certainly fertile little things! And although the humans themselves took some getting used to, their pets were a big hit! In their early days, they traded weaned puppies and kittens for goods and services. The animals were less exotic and elite now, but still immensely popular.
“So what happened today?” My mother was good at reading me. Of course, I still had my head scarf on, which was a clue. I handed it to Meliadora, who hung it up on the hook by the door.
“I had to go to the human sector today, for a murder. It looks like a murder, anyway. Everyone who lived with the lady pretended she was all perfect, but the others said that everyone hated her and that basically anyone with a pulse had a motive. And would you believe? They have their own schools! We bend over backwards to make them feel welcome, give them what they need, but they don’t want to associate with us. Ungrateful wretches!” My mother handed me a cup of hot beverage name.
“Anything new with Daria?”
“How did you know? Yeah, she’s pregnant. Her and Weldon are going to become partners. How do you know this stuff? Did you run into her?”
My mother smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Then she returned to the original subject. “Don’t your children go to school with humans?”
It never occurred to me to ask them about it, but it could be useful in this case. They had never really talked about them. What were they like? The girls were silent for a moment.
“Well, they stay one gender.”
“Like us.” Ah, here it was again. My daughters’ father was from Aldo Bay, and so like him they had one solid gender. All the time. They didn’t mention it very often, but occasionally they let it slip that they didn’t think it was even a little bit appealing.
“So the humans are one gender each. Then isn’t it nice that there is someone like you?” Oops! Wrong thing to say!
“They are not like us! They are short. And that weird color. Like the ground.”
“Colors. They come in all different colors.”
“But their hands are shaped funny. Their fingers are all wrong.”
“Their fingers are short and stubby. I don’t know how they manage to do anything with them!”
“And their noses are long.”
“But still, they can’t smell anything. They have no idea how much they stink.”
“And they don’t have any tails.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“I do too. They wear tight clothes, or they did the first day of school. Until they got uniforms. No tails. Plus, I saw how they sit. Watch them next time.”
“Maybe their tails are cut off. They do that in name of place, or at least they used to. My friend name doesn’t have her tail any more.”
“That’s because she’s … older now. When a girl is … older … there, they do that. It’s barbaric, really.”
“Who’s going to marry her without a tail?”
“Girls, please! I want to know more about the humans!”
“Well, we’re telling you about the humans!”
“No, I want to know what they’re like.”
“They talk funny.”
“Well, it takes a while to learn a new language.”
“No, not that. Well, that, too. But their voices are deep, and kind of flat, and, I don’t know, just different.”
“And they’re separate.”
“What do you mean, separate?”
“They don’t touch.”
“Their faces have no expressions when they talk.”
“Their ears don’t move when they talk.”
“They’re just really weird.”
Somehow, this really wasn’t the sort of information I needed. This wasn’t going to tell me anything about how to solve the murder. I decided to go back to the human sector tomorrow, as awful as that sounded, to see what else I could find out.