“Yes, Miss Elenyakiyah?”
“Step forward,” said the Calafan teacher. She was humanoid, with long, slender features and a silver pattern to her arms that was starting to emerge nicely. That, plus her very short silvery-blonde hair, marked her as being about thirty-five years of age. She stared at the six-year-old human boy in front of her.
“Yes, Miss Elenyakiyah.”
“Did you draw this?” She showed him a picture, scrawled on real paper. It was not a very good drawing, of a huge flightless bird native to the southern hemisphere of Lafa II – an elekai.
“And what does the caption say?” the teacher asked sternly. “Read it loud enough, so that the entire class can hear.” Behind her, a display cycled through the time – fourteen hundred twenty hours and then to the date – September eleventh of 2166.
“Miss Elekai,” he mumbled, barely at the edge of coherence.
“What did you say?” she asked sharply.
“Miss, uh, it says Miss Elekai.”
“Am I given to understanding, Thomas Digiorno-Madden, that you think I look like an elekai?”
There was giggling behind him. He spun around briefly in order to ascertain the sources of the laughter. It was a one-room schoolhouse, much like human pioneers had used a good three hundred years previously, on Earth. But this was 2166, and they were on the northern continent of Lafa II. Still, they were pioneers, just the same.
One of the Calafan children – Yinora – was laughing. But, as he turned to face the rest of the children in the large combined elementary classes, the human children also began to laugh. There was his full brother, Neil, who was younger than he. There was his half-brother, Joss Beckett. And his half-sister, Marie Patrice – Empy – Beckett. They were both older than Tommy. And there was also their half-brother, Declan Reed, who was maybe a month older than Neil. There were other human children laughing, too, like Davey Ryan and Cindy Morgan and Jia Sulu.
In short, pretty much everyone.
“Thomas?” The teacher asked, “I am waiting.”
“It wasn’t me,” Tommy said, after thinking it over a bit, “It was Neil. And, and Declan drew the picture.”
“Thomas,” she said, losing her patience a little, “it is your own handwriting. And we all know that Declan doesn’t draw like this.”
“Thomas, are you lying to me?” Her expression was a very stern one.
“It was Neil!”
The teacher sighed. “I would contact the headmaster, but he is on his vacation. I have no choice but to send you home today, with a note.” She quickly tapped out a note on her PADD and sent it. “I shall get someone to take you to your apartment in Fep City.”
“N-no, Miss Elek – uh, Elenyakiah. We are staying at my, my Daddy’s house while the apartment is being fixed up.”
“Miss Elenyakiah,” Joss volunteered, “he can walk home to my house from here. It’s not far.”
“Do you know the way?” the teacher inquired.
“Then go. Be back bright and early tomorrow.”
As his half-brother had said, it was a short walk. He didn’t knock, and the door was unlocked as all of the human homes were on Lafa II during that time period. His Daddy, he knew, was putting his military unit through training drills on Lafa IX. His Daddy’s wife, who he called Ma Lili, was at work in her restaurant. And Declan’s Daddy, Malcolm Reed, was the First Officer on the Zefram Cochrane and was off somewhere or another on a mission. Maybe his mother, and the woman he called Mama Norri would be home. He shrugged. Or maybe they wouldn’t.
In the guest bedroom of the Beckett home, Melissa Madden and Leonora – Norri – Digiorno were having a high old time of it. Afterglow was turning back into foreplay. Melissa lay back, eyes closed, concentrating on her lover’s touch and taste as Norri did the same.
“Mommy? Mommy? Can I have some tofflin juice?”
For a split second, the lovers did not hear Tommy. Their door was open, and he absentmindedly barged right in. “Mommy? Uh, Mommy? Mama Norri? What are you doing?”
Melissa sat up, fast, nearly knocking Norri off the bed in the process. They were both stark naked and grabbed the sheet. “Tommy!” Melissa finally squeaked out. “You’re home early!”
“Teacher sent me home with a note.” He looked at them closely. “Were you making babies?”
Norri swallowed. It seemed all too early for the talk. “Tommy?” she asked, attempting to maintain her composure. “Can you please give Mommy and me about five minutes? Go, um, go put your jacket on the peg in the hallway and, um, we’ll talk, all right?”
“Can I have tofflin juice?” he asked again.
“Only a little,” Melissa said.
He turned to leave and they quickly shut the bedroom door behind him, clothes flying at each other as they dressed in record time. They emerged from the guest bedroom as soon as they could.
“Uh, Tommy?” Melissa ventured, “You wanna talk about what you saw?”
“Is that how I was made?” he asked.
“Uh, not exactly,” Norri said, “um, here, let’s see. Now, you know your Daddy is named Doug Beckett. And he’s married to your Ma Lili Beckett, right?” Tommy nodded so she continued. “And they love each other very much. And so they made two babies together, Jeremiah and Marie Patrice.”
“Joss and Empy,” Tommy said.
“That’s right,” Melissa said. “And they have something called an open marriage. And, uh, because of that, your Daddy also loves me very much, and we made two babies – you and Neil.”
“Who made Declan? Was it you, Mama Norri. Did you help?”
“No,” Norri reddened a little, “It was your Ma Lili and Malcolm Reed.”
“Oh yeah, Mackum,” he said. “Mama Norri?”
“Yes, my love?”
“Why didn’t you make any babies? Is it because Mommy’s not a boy?”
“Uh, we’ll go with that,” Melissa said.