The young woman had brown fur and big, chocolate brown eyes. Her ears were triangular and stood up – well, they mostly did, with the front flaps a little folded over. Her elder sister, Cria, had carefully trimmed her whiskers in the modern, graduated style. Her nails were trimmed. She was wearing a brand-new cloak and tied top. Her capris were pressed and coordinated with her top and cloak. Unusual for her species, she was even wearing shoes, but they felt strange and uncomfortable. She stood up straight and tried not to let her pouch and belly stick out too much.
The Dean of Admissions looked at her. He was a human male. “I have never seen your species here before at Oxford. What did you say that was?”
“Daranaean, sir,” she said, “My name is Inta.”
“Have you a surname, Inta?”
“I do not.”
“We will need one for our records. For species that don’t use last names, we generally use the species name, or the planetary name. Hence you would be known as Miss Inta Daranaea. The instructors would mainly call you Miss Daranaea. Is that understood?”
He looked at a PADD. “I have a bit of your work in front of me. You’re here because of it, of course, but also because of a rather generous recommendation from a person who’s fairly high up in Starfleet. Or at least he was. My understanding is that he’s retired now.”
“Oh, yes. I presume you are referring to Captain Reed. He and his wife have been most generous to me. I have, ever since I learned that their son, Declan, was to study art here, I wished to do so as well.” She looked down, feeling she had said too much.
“Declan Reed is in an advanced class. But I imagine you’ll run into him in the hallways and such. Welcome to Oxford.”
Once Inta had gotten situated in an all-girls dormitory – the single-sex had been a requirement from her overly worried mother – she called home. And then she called Lafa II. “I would like to speak to Captain Malcolm Reed, please.”
He got onto the visual call quickly. “Ah, this is a pleasant surprise.”
“It is September the second of 2182. So it is your birthday, yes? And you are seventy?”
“I am,” he admitted, “I understand you’ve been admitted to the same program as Declan. Congratulations on your acceptance at Oxford.”
“I thank you. Sir, the Dean of Admissions told me that your recommendation, it helped me to get in.”
“I’m sure it was mainly your talent at drawing and painting,” Malcolm reminded her.
“Perhaps. But I am certain you helped a great deal. And it is your birthday. I should give you a gift.”
“You don’t need to,” he said. There was a small sound in the background as his wife got into viewer range.
“Hi, Inta,” she smiled.
“Hello, Lili. I was just saying; I should give Malcolm a gift.”
“Your best gift,” Lili said, “will be to do well at Oxford, all right?”
“I shall think of something else. Oh! I can hear church bells. It is time to take supper. Thank you again. Inta out.”
She stuffed her PADD into her pouch and walked toward Littlegate House. There was a large cafeteria. She got herself a tray and the day’s offering of shepherd’s pie, which smelled a bit like the foods that she was used to. She knew no one, except for Declan, and didn’t see him.
She sat down by herself and glanced around at all of the people going by. She sampled her food and then took her PADD out. “A gift for your birthday,” she wrote. She looked around a little bit more at all of the faces – human, Xindi, Vulcan, Calafan, Tellarite, Tandaran and Andorian, mostly. At least, those were the species that she could recognize.
A young human man with very light blond hair sat down several tables from her. He didn’t see her. It was Declan. Inta debated for a second as to whether to join him, but he seemed to be with friends and she didn’t want to intrude. Instead, she pressed the stylus to her PADD and began to draw.
An hour later, on Lafa II, there was a ding on Malcolm Reed’s PADD, signifying that there was an incoming message. He clicked it open to find a five-word note and a beautifully detailed portrait of his only child, Declan Charles Reed.