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Writer 01-07-2008 08:52 PM

What it Takes: Blending in on Earth
From the personal journal of Matthew Garrison:

Well, it's been a month now since what's left of the Council of Jabros picked Earth for a convenient hiding spot... and I think that none of us involved really understood how much of a challenge that would be for them. While they've perfectly adapted by physical standards (despite the fact that one of their females is mimicking a male... weird), the mannerisms are turning out to be much more difficult to teach. I think they didn't realize how complex human emotions are... you know, that being sad can be a good thing, that being happy can seem a little creepy... and whatever.

Their leader, Jathan is continually kept on his toes by the youngest member of the Council, the girl I've slowly come to realize is his little sister. Now, I'd say I feel his pain, but... I'm an only child, so... anyway, they're quite the bunch.

Jaiera, the risk-taker, who wants to get out of our little observatory every second she gets; Pallax, the most militarily minded of the bunch, who still seems a bit sore over the fact that Jathan led them away from Jabros; Ishi, who's fascinated with our customs and works extra hard to understand them (albeit with an odd twist of logic sometimes); Titell... and I'm not sure what his issue is, but he's got rather little patience with us and seems the most reluctant to learn from us; Odrimae, who seems to understand our mannerisms relatively well, but tends to take after a 'loner' stereotype; Shaqui, who seems one of the most eager to interact with us... something to do perhaps with the fact that he's a negotiator. And finally, there's Jathan, the leader of the bunch, and the one I understand least. It's like he's got this overwhelming burden on his shoulders and he's unwilling to share the load...

Anyway, I'm hoping their enemies don't come 'round anytime soon. Of all of them, Jaiera and Ishi seem to understand how to act more than most... with Odrimae and Shaqui coming in close behind. Pallax gets the military viewpoint, but she's a bit rough when it comes to everyday interaction. Titell... I just don't know. I'm thinking I'll have to get Dianne's opinion on all of them...

- - - - - - - - - - -
From the personal journal of Jathan:

And here I was thinking Humans were so simple. It's why I chose Earth as our destination. But while our natural physical forms are similar, very little else is. We have the same emotions, but they are expressed far differently. I'll name anger specifically. Jaiera is often angry with me, for I voted against her when her name was on the hot-list for replacing Kivran. But these Humans tend to exaggerate their anger response... often going for days without speaking to one another as a result of anger. It seems highly counterproductive, but it is this... counterproductivity that we are now finding ourselves required to imitate. Jaiera finds it amusing... and she's taken to 'running away' from time to time, to cement the point that she's angry with me. Quite honestly, I find it exasperating and childish. Then again, what am I to expect of someone who's barely mature?

The human leader... Matthew Garrison is overeager to interface with us, and I find myself concerned with what may be his reasons. He says he's just excited that his dreams have come true, that there are other species amongst the stars. He says. At any rate, he's calling for me... Jaiera seems to have gone missing again...

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"Did anyone see when she left?" Jathan asked patiently. Matt shook his head.

"No, I'm afraid not," he replied. "Your sister is remarkably good at sneaking out of the observation center. I'm tempted to install some kind of safety alarm... anytime it's not deactivated before the door's opened, it could go off..."

"Consider it more seriously," Jathan ordered. "I'm taking your car. She's fast, but your car is faster."

"Be careful!" Matt exclaimed. "Follow the rules!"

Nodding wordlessly, Jathan headed for the door.

JasraLantill 01-08-2008 02:09 AM

((Small amount of jointiness w/Writer. :) ))

“Driving?” Ishi looked up at Jathan from the magazine she was reading. “You can’t drive Matt’s car, Jathan. You don’t have a driving license and it is protocol that you have one. Pallax and I saw that on that on an episode of COPS not long ago. The consequences seemed most severe.”

Jathan shot her a harsh glare. “Where Jaiera is concerned, I don’t care if I need a license or a full blown song and dance before going out in a car. It’s a simple carbon-powered machine. And I follow the rules, anyway, Ishi. The kind of driving you see on Earth television is... erratic at best."

Ishi sighed at Jathan’s rebuffing and went back to her magazine. "Fine. Just remember. A green light means 'go'. A red light means 'stop'. And a yellow light means 'speed up so you can get through the intersection before the red light comes on,’” she called after him as he darted out the door, Matt’s car keys in hand.

"Got it, got it!" he shouted back at her in reply.

Matt meanwhile watched the exchange, then shook his head. "Oh, yeah... you all are really adapting well..."

“What?” Ishi’s eyes widened, and she suddenly looked up at Matt. “That's... that's sarcasm!" she exclaimed, eyes growing wide with concern. “I read about that. It means there is something we are doing that is not complying with conventional norms."

"You certainly do your homework," Matt chuckled. "Don't worry. It's fine. Technically, if the light turns yellow, you should slow down, because it means the red's coming up and you'll need to be ready to stop." He shrugged. "Going through a yellow light won't get him pulled over though... he'll be fine. Most Americans do much the same anyway,” he added, “so the cops don't tend to bother."

Ishi nodded slowly as if she were making a mental note. “I shall remember that, Matt. Thank you.”

starmark2k 01-08-2008 03:22 AM

“What will she Remember?” Dianne asked walking into the room where her friend Matt and the Jabric known as Ishi.

Dianne had been watching Ishi closer than the other one as she had been the Jabric who seemed to be collecting the most information about Earth culture. It also didn’t help their relationship considering Ishi despite being the female of her species choose to look like a man, Dianne was a women, she had worked hard to get where she was and this alien seemed to undermine this whole thing.

“I hope y’all haven’t been feeding them information again.” She told Matt shaking her head.

“More suspicion from that Human.” Titell Said Standing in the corner of the room, he spoke in an English accent as he felt that it was the most civilized this primitive world had to offer. “Driving in cars ran by Fossils, so primitive.”

“Oh God! What’s he doin’ here.” Dianne exclaimed as she continued to walk over to Matt.

“Trust me, I’m not here by choice.” Titel replied.

mur'phon 01-08-2008 06:17 AM

"I hope I one day become integrated enough that I understand why you have such a problem with us learning when it's clearly to your benefitt." Shaqui said with a smile, hoping he had chosen his words right, or hadn't overdone the smile or.... Stars what he would give for Ishis understanding.

From the begining it had been clear that Dianne didn't like any Jabric, especially not Titel and Ishi, though he suspected he was third on that list. However her problem with Titell was the only one he thought he could do something about, so he walked over to him.

"I have come to expect humans to act irrational from time to time, but why do you seem to anoy them at every turn? If it's something you know that I don't, please share it with me, if not, remember we depend on them."

JasraLantill 01-08-2008 11:29 AM

"I believe both Dianne and Titell are suffering from forms of discontent," Ishi said to Shaqui. "Titell from the frustration of being stuck here among aliens with a technologically inferior society, and Dianne from...."

She hurried flipped through the magazine she was reading from (which had on its cover a picture of a beautiful brunette wearing a bright yellow string bikini and posing on a beach,) trying to find a particular article.

"Ah! Here it is. 'The Green-Eyed Monster,'", she started to read, "'jealousy in the workplace--tips on how to deal with your cranky female boss.' It says here that jealousy, phallus envy, and rivalry are common emotional aliments among females in the workplace, particularly those who harbor ambitions for advancement in male-dominated career fields."

She looked up, this time eyeing Dianne. "Careers involving mathematics, medicine, and physics are in the top ten of the male-dominated career fields, Dianne," she added. And then she smiled. "So, Shaqui you are quite correct in attempting to reason with Titell in order to get him to alter his behaviour, because Dianne is reacting in a perfectly normal fashion for a successful, career-minded, goal-oriented, un-married human female between the ages of 20 and 55."

Rogue Nine 01-08-2008 12:09 PM

"I think there's just a wee bit more to it than tha', Ishi," Cael O'Rinn told the Jabric as he came in through the front door, smelling of smoke. "Oh, and for future ref'rence, human females don't normally like to have things like that pointed out to them, 'specially by men."

He glanced over at Dianne. "Easy there, Dee," he told her, his voice soothing. "These are our guests and ti'snt right if ye be actin' all rude." He gave her a smile. "Where's that Texas hospitality?"

starmark2k 01-08-2008 03:34 PM

“In Texas.” Dianne replied to the Irish scientist. “Just sayin’ that we should be careful with all this information we’re giving to them on a silver platter, is all.”

“The information you have given us is only basics on your society and nothing harmful.” Titel defended his species. “Your suspicion is unfounded and shows the primitive nature of your species psyche.”

JasraLantill 01-08-2008 04:18 PM

"Oh, and for future ref'rence, human females don't normally like to have things like that pointed out to them, 'specially by men."

Ishi opened her mouth to say something to the effect that she was, in actuality, a female, but then she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. She abruptly closed her mouth, and then a slow, shy smile began to appear on her lips.

Even from her Jabric point of view, her outward appearance wasn’t just male—she was quite an attractive specimen. She could see Cael’s point on how Dianne might feel intimidated by her previous comment.

Ishi quickly brought her thoughts back to the present situation.

“Just sayin’ that we should be careful with all this information we’re giving to them on a silver platter, is all.”

“The information you have given us is only basics on your society and nothing harmful.” Titel defended his species. “Your suspicion is unfounded and shows the primitive nature of your species psyche.”

“Titel,” said Ishi, “you are being argumentative and unproductive in fostering relations.” She looked at Shaqui, giving him a nod of solidarity and support as he was the one who had taken it upon himself to foster Human/Jabric bonds. “May I make a suggestion?” She held up a finger to make a point, and then opened up the local newspaper that was lying on a nearby table. “How about a group activity?” she suggested, as she tabbed through the pages. “An outing where Human and Jabric can participate in a common activity and thus gain additional awareness of each other’s social and cultural customs? I believe the colloquial phrase is ‘a teambuilding exercise.’ Ah, here.” She folded the newspaper back upon itself, then held it up for the rest of them to see. It was an advertisement for a hotel resort.

She smiled. “We should go to Las Vegas.”

RobQel-Droma 01-08-2008 10:30 PM

"Is that really necessary?" said a quiet voice. Odrimae slowly walked into the room, looking at Ishi. "Wouldn't that attract quite a bit of attention to our.... oddity?"

He seated himself in one of the chairs and looked down at some of the magazines, slightly interested in what she had been reading. famous for massive and lavish casino resorts, the unrestricted availability of alcoholic beverages (as is true throughout Nevada), and adult entertainment. Once officially referred to as Sin City... he read. Somewhere he had read about the Earth term sin, and he thought it implied something bad, or dangerous.... something like that.

Not that he really cared about danger from Earth, he was more concerned about what lay out beyond Earth; but he felt that it would be better to be cautious when deciding to go into large public entertainment areas. He felt slightly insecure about going to this "Las Vegas" when he knew almost nothing about it.

Writer 01-09-2008 12:05 AM

((I should have mentioned this long ago... we're not in Nevada any more... and our location will be revealed in this here post... so hang tight ;) ))

Matt smiled faintly. "Vegas is a bit of a drive," he said, "and we can't exactly shuffle you Jabrics on a plane without ID." He laughed. "Security would go nuts... to say nothing of the letter agencies..." He frowned thoughtfully. "Group activity's not a bad idea though, Ishi... tell you what. Boise's about a three hour drive, give or take a half hour or so. They've got a semi-decent mall there we could browse. Soon as Jathan gets back with Jaiera, we'll assemble everyone and see if we're all in favor."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jathan could see why some humans considered driving a calming activity. For one thing, it gave him time to think of how to handle his irresponsible sister. He was fairly certain he knew where she'd gone, as the last time they'd gone into the town... what had Matt called it? Maycall? Jathan glanced at the sign on the way into the town and repeated the letters, "Big M, little c, big C, little a-l-l... Maycall? Hmph..."

At any rate, Jaiera had been particularly interested in a large building the Humans had identified as an ice skating rink. How she'd get in without money was another matter entirely, but Jaiera was unnervingly good at getting into places she shouldn't be. Perhaps that was why she'd been elected in the place of Kivran. After all, if you're replacing a sneak, replace her with a sneak who'll sneak for you... or something like that...

At any rate, Jathan pulled the car up to the ice skating rink and tugged the door open, scanning the room for his sister. Almost immediately, he singled her out, putting on a pair of ice skates on the other side of the room. She saw him too, but initially made no indications of recognition. As he drew nearer, she held up a pair of skates for him... she'd known he was coming.

"Jaiera, we can't stay," he said softly. She regarded him blankly.

"Who's Jaiera?" she asked. It was a slight blow to Jathan's patience, but Jaiera loved games...

"Jessica, we have to go," he said, stressing the Human name she'd chosen.

"Why?" she asked, imitating a pout.

"Because of what hunts us," Jathan murmured into her ear. "Alone, we are vulnerable."

"Bunched together, we make a bigger target," Jaiera countered. "Skate with me."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Two hours later, Jathan and Jaiera returned to the observatory; Jaiera seemed utterly pleased, while Jathan wouldn't speak. A bewildered Matt called after him, asking what had happened. Slowly, Jathan turned, shot a glare to Jaiera, who'd gone to sit next to Ishi, and shrugged.

"We went ice skating," he muttered, turning and moving out of sight.

JasraLantill 01-09-2008 11:27 AM

"We went ice skating." Jathan's words sparked an interested look in Ishi's hazel eyes and she gave Jaeira a smile as she sat down next to her.

"Ice skating, indeed?" Ishi grinned, obviously pleased that Jaeira had made the most of her outing. She had tried extra hard to bond with the girl ever since her close friend and fellow council member, Kivran, had been ousted, and she feared that Jathan saw her more as a co-conspirator rather than someone who had been duped along with the others. "You will have to tell me all about your experience." Ishi draped an arm over Jaeira's shoulders in a friendly, almost parental manner. "And you'll have plenty of time to do that when we...." She paused, then gave an inquiring look at Matt. "Assault the road?"

"Hit the road," Matt corrected.

"Hit the road," Ishi continued to Jaeira. "Matt's promised to take us on a group outing to a mall."

"Hey, I never prom...." Matt started to object.

"The Towne Square, I believe it's called," Ishi continued, completely ignoring Matt. "In Boise. Three hours driving time." Another small nudge, and Ishi tapped her finger on a fashion ad in one of the open magazines on the coffee table in front of them. "They have," she said conspiratorially, "a Macys there."

She suddenly straightened her posture and cleared her throat. "Not that, I, disguised as human male Pat Connor, should be seen to enjoy myself while participating in any part of the apparel browsing process, but... I do need to obtain some attire more suitable than jeans, boots, and a T-shirt if I'm ever going to do more... interactive social studies."

She glanced askance at Dianne. "Not that I have an immediate plans to do so," she added quickly. "But just... in case. One can never be too prepared when staying on an alien world."

She turned to Jaeira again. "So, tell me about ice skating...."

Quist 01-10-2008 08:56 PM

Pallax stood in the middle of the court on the roof, staring up at the wintry sky. It was cold, and the human form she was currently in was far less efficient at keeping her warm than her natural Jabric skin. Nevertheless, she had followed Jathan's orders not to be conspicuous and had adopted 'camouflage', so to speak. That didn't mean she had to be comfortable or happy with it.

She breathed out deeply, watching the wispy condensation of her breath in the air as she continued to gaze upward. Somewhere, among the bright specks in the sky, her kinsmen were being hunted. Somewhere, the usurpers of the throne were roaming free, ferreting out those loyal to the rightful ruler. It angered her that she was not up there, fighting the fight and striving actively to take back Jabros. If there was one thing that angered Pallax more than betrayal, it was inaction.

Still, Jathan could have picked a worse place to land. Earth was fairly hospitable and humans were easy enough to blend in with, at least physically. The only sentient species on the planet had a great many oddities about it and she had trouble understanding most of them. Ishi, of course, was delighted and eager to learn more about their new hosts, and Pallax conceded to herself that she would probably have to ask the younger Jabric about human customs and whatnot, for the purpose of 'fitting in'. She just hoped that Jathan would have a plan soon enough, and one that involved action.

Pallax took one last longing look at the sky before turning and heading back inside.

Writer 01-11-2008 02:11 AM

Jaiera flashed a smile. "It was..." She paused, searching for words. "Remember when the Kiferan ambassador came to Jabros... and we mimicked his species' wings? And how his daughter showed how to use them and ride the wind currents?" She grinned. "It's sort of like that... without all the ups and downs." She giggled. "Jathan fell twice."

Matt snorted. "And on that note, I'll go find the man... he's your leader, so I figure he'd best have some say into the mall trip."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jathan was not the only one in the central room upstairs; Kayla and Logan were there, just as silent as ever. Jathan was pretending to ignore them, but his senses were on high alert whenever he was around them... he could practically taste tension in the air when they were around the Jabrics. Something wasn't right about those two, but he could not pin the feeling down.

"Hey Jathan... oh..." Matt began, but he paused as he noticed his cousin and her boyfriend. "And Kayla and Logan... umm... Ishi wants a group outing... suggested Vegas, but that's a bit far. We're talking about the mall in Boise... three hours away."

"I'll have to... uh..." Jathan muttered. He shook his head and shrugged. "We're trying to 'lay low', I believe you called it..."

"You look human," Matt reminded him. "Maybe it's time you all started trying to put your extensive learning this past month to good use."

Jathan nodded thoughtfully. "Very well," he conceded. "We will go to this... mall. I shall inform the rest of my people."

Matt grinned. "Ishi's gonna be thrilled... what about you, Kayla? Logan? You coming with us?"

Logan left the room without a word. Kayla shrugged. "We'll hold down the fort here," she promised. "I haven't been to a mall in years and I shouldn't like to repeat the experience."

"Oookay..." Matt muttered, turning and heading away to spread the news of the mall outing to whoever he met. But the first being he ran into was Pallax... and he'd still not gotten quite used to her, for she was the most combat-minded being he'd ever met... and he was far from it.

"Ooh, uh, hey Pallax," he stammered. "Uh... I think Jathan's looking for you."

"I was, actually," Jathan said, coming up behind the two. "Thank you, Matt."

Matt grinned and departed, and Jathan took Pallax aside.

"I had a sleepless night," he told her quietly. "I spent most of it going around to the different observation stations... and I feel your desire for conflict will be satisfied sooner than I had expected." He shifted into their language and softly murmured, "The Trackers are inbound... unless technology has drastically improved since we left, they should touch down not far from where we did in a matter of hours."

He straightened and returned to speaking English. "I understand that Ishi has recommended a group activity. Can I count on you joining us?"

Quist 01-11-2008 11:48 PM

Pallax's face remained impassive, but inside, her mind and emotions were churning. Shifting into their tongue, she whispered urgently to Jathan, "The Trackers know we're here?" Her eyes flashed. "We need to intercept them and take them out, so they don't send for reinforcements. I don't know how you can think of going to a group activity while danger is upon us. Not only to ourselves, but any humans who may get in the way." She glanced over at Kayla and Logan, who were observing the two conversing Jabrics out of the corner of their eyes. Shifting her gaze back to Jathan, she looked into his oddly-colored human eyes, imploring with her own for him to take action.

Writer 01-12-2008 12:39 AM

Jathan sighed. "Under more favorable circumstances, I'd agree with you," he replied. "But the distance is to great to reach them in time to do something about it. By the time we could get to their touchdown site, they would be long gone... off to hunt us."

He turned away for a moment before whispering, "We came to Earth for more reasons than just the ease of physical blending in."

He whispered at length directly into her ear and then withdrew. In English, he prompted, "The group activity?"

starmark2k 01-12-2008 11:16 AM

Dianne had walked off into one of the recreation rooms within the observatory, it was empty of all but her. She walked over to the small Piano in the corner and sat by it opening the cover over the keys. She began to play a tune, soft and slow, she wasn’t sure what it was it was just a comfort to play anything in these stressful situations. It wasn’t the arrival of the aliens that upset her, she was actually quietly excited about being one of the first to discover Extra terrestrial Life was out there and intelligent. What upset her was how many matt and the others seemed to be taking the Aliens on face Value, taking every word they said to be the truth, Dianne knew how kind words could hide dark Intensions. She continued to play as she thought and tried to calm herself down.

Black Knight of Keno 01-12-2008 05:28 PM

The spot illuminated on the wall moved rapidly as a figure turned it's head in the dark. The light was in the man's mouth and the spot swiftly moved back in front of the man so he could see what he was doing to a large lump of machinery that served as a backup generator. since there were two feet of snow on the ground, you never knew when the powers went out and especially in the case of having literally dozens of computers doing extremely important work on the second floor, they could not lose the power for even half a second and less.

As the only accomplished engineer in the group, he had the task of janitoring the place most of the time and in January most of his time went into making sure the place stayed well equipped with the essentials: electricity, water and heat. To be frank, he hadn't even had the time to get acquainted with the aliens or their technology since their arrival, even if he had attempted to do so repeatedly, only to be interrupted by something or someone. Nonetheless, Alexander at no point seemed to lose the driving force behind his energy even if he was discouraged by the menial tasks he had to do before getting to his main interests.

RobQel-Droma 01-13-2008 12:06 AM

Catching the sound of his own language being spoken, Odrimae slowly walked upstairs, wondering what would have necessitated one of his fellow Jabros' need for privacy. He continued up the staircase and almost ran into Jathan and Pallax, who were still conversing in the Jabros native tongue.

Jathan leaned forward to whisper something into Pallax' ear, and Odrimae respectfully withdrew back into the corner. The two didn't seem to notice him yet. Then Jathan straightened back up, saying, "The group outing?"

"We're going to a.... 'mall', in an Earth city called Boise." Odrimae quietly answered his question, stepping forward so that they both were aware of his presence.What has happened? He muttered.

JasraLantill 01-13-2008 08:25 PM

((Joint post with Writer.))

Jaiera flashed a smile. "It was..." She paused, searching for words. "Remember when the Kiferan ambassador came to Jabros... and we mimicked his species' wings? And how his daughter showed how to use them and ride the wind currents?" She grinned. "It's sort of like that... without all the ups and downs." She giggled. "Jathan fell twice."

Ishi showed a slow, sly smile at Jaiera's disclosure. "He fell?"

Jaiera nodded. "That's part of the reason he was so... shut down just now. That and the fact that I wasn't supposed to be out, I suppose... but mostly that. I think he's in a little pain."

She shrugged. "I don't think he's quite the type to understand the basic workings of active sports..."

“Yes, he never did work out how to properly work the Kiferan wings…” Ishi shrugged off the memory. “Humans do seem to be very physically active creatures,” Ishi observed. “Have you noticed all of the sporting-based media programes they seem to broadcast? And,” she added, holding up a mindful finger. She reached over and picked up another magazine from the table. “They like to wager on the outcomes. Look here.” She showed Jaiera an article on illegal sports gambling.

Jaiera looked at the article with a puzzled frown. "I can understand the interest in physical challenge. We do much the same, though in different ways... but this seems like sheer idiocy."

“Indeed. Their penchant for wagering is most puzzling.” Ishi put a finger to her lips. “Perhaps humans get some sort of physical stimulation from the activity? Adrenaline perhaps? I will query Dianne about that later.”

Jaiera shuddered at the mention of Dianne and lowered her voice. "What's her issue, anyway? Matt's so friendly. Dianne's just... not."

“I believe Dianne feels threatened by our presence,” Ishi said plaintively. “Females have a lower status in society here. She feels insecure.”

Jaiera paled. "Oh..." she said in a small voice. "But... she has done well enough, hasn't she? And, well... we... how would that make a difference? We are here to imitate their culture... not to overthrow it with our own."

Ishi pressed her lips together, then cocked her head to one side. She could hear faint piano music and knew that Dianne was playing it. Which meant she was not in earshot. “I believe my taking on a male appearance is disconcerting for her. She doesn’t trust me.” She paused. “Much the same as your brother.”

Jaiera's face fell. "I keep telling him you were deceived just as much as the rest of us," she sighed. "I don't know what will convince him."

“I don’t think anything will,” Ishi said ruefully. “Perhaps, in time, he will come to realise this.” She managed a grin. “In the meantime, we should plan our outing. We must make the most of the opportunity.”

Writer 01-15-2008 08:06 PM

Jathan nodded to Odrimae. "I was just informing Pallax of the trip," he said. And in response to the younger Jabric's question, he replied, "Oh, we were just remembering things of the past... what Jabros was like before things started getting unsettled..." He shot a glance at Pallax, silently urging her to say nothing of the Trackers just yet.

Suddenly, Matt's voice rang over the intercom, sounding all throughout the observation center, as well as outside.

"If I could have everyone's attention, please," he said. "A group activity is in planning. If everyone could report to the TV room, that'd be great. Thanks."

Jathan nodded. "Let's go... we'll see if Matt has any further information to give us about this... activity."

Rogue Nine 01-15-2008 10:44 PM

Cael let go of the truck's hood, letting the large piece of metal thump back down on top of the engine. He grabbed a washcloth and rubbed the grease off of his hands as he headed back inside the house. Since they were soon to be making a trip, he wanted to be sure that they'd make it there.

As he came through the foyer, he heard the unmistakable sound of their small Steinway piano being played in one of the side rooms. Tucking the cloth into his back pocket, he walked into the doorway and leaned on the doorpost. "Rachmaninoff," he said, looking over at Dianne. "I think you're playing it a little too lento, Dee." He gave her a crooked smile. "What's on yer mind?"

starmark2k 01-16-2008 02:34 PM

“Alien, the universe and the future of all mankind.” Dianne replied continuing to play the piano. “Ya Know nothing to heavy.” She chuckled lightly. She stopped playing the piano and looked up at the Irish scientist.

“So are you here to make sure I turn up at the group activity or just to socialise?” Dianne asked standing up.

Rogue Nine 01-17-2008 06:46 PM

"I don't think Matt is gonna make you go if you don't want ta," Cael reasoned. He knew that the young Southern astronomer was none too pleased with their new houseguests. "Though I'm sure that if you did come, you'd see that they're not that bad. And really, wouldn't you like it if some alien planet you visited had natives as nice as us? At least they're not bloodthirsty carnivores or nothin.'"

Quist 01-18-2008 12:30 AM

Pallax stiffened at what Jathan had whispered to her, but said nothing. She didn't like how things had turned out, but for now, she'd have to trust his word. She just hoped that they would live long enough for him to fully earn that trust.

As the intercom rang through the house, she glanced at both Odrimae and Jathan. She exhaled a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "For now, Jathan, I'll come with you on this... 'group activity'. I just hope the humans have something safe planned."

starmark2k 01-19-2008 04:59 AM

“How can you be sure what they are like?” Dianne argued. “He have no proof that what they tell us is true… I mean for all we know they could be some Vanguard for an all out invasion of the planet.”

Dianne shook her head. “Look I’ll come but only to do what the rest of y’all won’t and keep an objective view of their activities.”

Writer 01-21-2008 08:47 PM

When everyone had gathered, Matt explained that the plan was to leave for Boise the next morning, spend the day in town, and then return to the center by around 8 PM. He went into a little detail about what stores were in the mall and other places nearby.

"I'm not going to force anyone to come," he concluded. "But I think that after a month of having our Jabric friends hard at their studying, it's time to get them out and see how they manage. On top of that, it could improve our relations with one another." He paused. "Questions? Concerns?"

mur'phon 01-22-2008 06:13 AM

"Any plan concerning what we'll do if any of us start drawing atention? Not that it's likely from your species partly random behavior, but it woul be irrational not to consider the possibility. Also, we should have a plan if the hunters show up."

"And pherhaps we should walk in small groups with at least one human in each, different tastes and all." And easier to get the humans to trust them he thought.

JasraLantill 01-23-2008 09:14 AM

Ishi held up a hand and patiently waited for Matt to acknowledge her, which he did eventually with an amused nod.

"Credit cards?" Ishi asked politely. But upon seeing Matt's look of confusion, Ishi pointed to one of her magazines. "We need credit cards. What is the point of going to a mall if we don't have purchasing power?" She picked up one of the newspapers. "And it said right here in today's paper that your economy needs a spending boost."

Then it dawned on her what Shaqui had just said. "Hunters, Shaqui? Hunters?! Hunters are not going to find us here." She shot a sharp look at Jathan. "Why would Hunters find us here? You said Earth would be safe. That the Hunters would never find us here. You said!"

She rose and began to pace, not sure what to do with the extra adrenaline. "So, what are we going to do if the Hunters find us?" She looked to Pallax for an answer. "Do you have a plan?" she asked anxiously. "You must have a plan. You *always* have a plan if something involves fighting or weapons."

Quist 01-23-2008 01:03 PM

Pallax glanced over at Ishi, still curious as to why the younger Jabric had chosen a male form, but she shook that thought away as she focused on Ishi's question. "If the Hunters manage to find us, then we are to do what is obligated to us and fight them. Preferably away from the humans. I have instructed you all on basic combat tactics and I hope they will serve you well in the event of a conflict."

She peered out of the corner of her eye at Shaqui, then over to Jathan. "And I do not believe there is any cause for concern about Hunters at the moment. We should just go and attempt to have..." the word escaped her for a moment, "fun."

JasraLantill 01-23-2008 05:46 PM

Ishi's expression changed from one of worry to one of anticipation. "Well, I have complete faith in your judgement, Pallax. If you don't think there is a threat, then I won't worry. Jaiera and I will just have fun."

She suddenly looked down at her arms, her male arms, and flexed her biceps. "Besides, appearing male on the outside may allow me certain advantages. I've got muscles now."

"Yes, but we are all stronger than average humans," Jaiera said.

"True," Ishi conceded. "But I feel stronger in this body than I think I would feel in a female one." She looked at Jaiera, and then Pallax. "No offense intended. But I just feel slightly more secure in this body." She tapped her chest, then grinned. "I feel... armored."

Writer 01-23-2008 07:24 PM

Jaiera playfully punched Ishi in the shoulder. "How do you feel now?" she teased. Jathan cleared his throat.

"I'll add only one thing to what Pallax has said," he said. "I never said we wouldn't be found. I just said it would take time. That is why I have not only allowed Pallax to go through her training exercises with us; I have encouraged it. Sooner or later, we will have a fight on our hands. But she is also right in saying we have nothing to worry about just yet."

"So that's why you've been staying around the center," Matt concluded. "You've been watching for your enemies, haven't you?"

Jathan nodded. "They have not found Earth yet." He eyed Ishi and added sharply, "And remember Ishi... armor is only so helpful. Pay more attention at our next combat exercise."

With that, the group was dismissed to do what they wished with the rest of their day...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After the meeting, Kayla and Logan went back upstairs. There, Kayla retrieved her cell phone and made a call. After a long silence, she said, "Jenna Myles, six-four-one-three-oh-two... please."

Logan smirked. "Please?" he echoed. Kayla stuck her tongue out at him. Then, she began speaking rapidly in some other language - a mixture of at least three different Earth languages, actually, and none of them English. Just as she was finishing the call, Matt came in.

"What was that?" he asked with a laugh. Kayla blushed.

"Oh, it's just..." she began. She grinned a little. "An old friend of mine... she's weird... won't speak English anymore. Just an odd sort of mix... Spanish, Italian, couple of German words thrown in."

"And you have to do the same to talk to her?" Matt wondered doubtfully. He snorted. "Sounds like too much effort... you sure you're not coming?"

"Bad mall experience," Kayla reminded him. Matt shrugged and left. Then, Logan took out his phone and made a call. Unlike his girlfriend, he spoke entirely in Russian... and his conversation was much shorter. When it was done, the two of them settled into chairs, watching the skies.

RobQel-Droma 01-23-2008 09:46 PM

Odrimae shook his head. Hunters possibly on our tracks, and here we go off out clean in the open. At least, he reasoned, the humans would be there to help him. Then again, they would all be in one place at the same time. Easy for hunters to find them.

After walking upstairs and finding Kayla and Logan there, he went back downstairs and found Matt. He wanted to talk to him about this little venture of his.

"Matt - before we go do this, I just wanted to ask you something. Do you happen to have an, er... "escape plan", just in case something happens and we need to exit the area quickly?"

Writer 01-25-2008 12:54 AM

Matt grinned. "Nothing to worry about... the mall's got plenty of exits and we'll be in smaller groups, scattered throughout. If police get suspicious or your... Hunters, was it?"

"Trackers, actually," Jathan answered, coming up behind Odrimae. "Hunters are newer, but Trackers are more reliable."

"And what exactly are they?" Matt asked, finally confronting an issue that had been bugging him all month long.

"Both are part of Jabros' genetic altering programs. Trackers came first. They are essentially stronger, faster Jabrics with enhanced senses and quicker shapeshifting time. The Hunters were second. Their shapeshifting time is lightning fast, they are ever so slightly stronger than we are, but their minds are not whole. They will do whatever it takes to get to their target, even if it means killing whatever is in their way."

"And the Trackers don't do that?" Matt wondered, shuddering at the thought of these genetically altered Jabrics out there hunting Jathan and his friends. Jathan shook his head.

"Trackers have enough of their minds left at their disposal that they understand a senseless killing of an unrelated bystander costs far more than it aids," he said. Then, he frowned. "But it is pointless to speak of them so early. They are not even on approach yet."

"I disagree, Jathan," Matt said slowly. "Based on what I've learned today, I think you ought to have brought this up sooner. A few of my people know how to fire a gun... I'm not sure anyone actually carries. And yet, since we're helping you, we are in just as great a risk as you are."

Jathan frowned. "My sincerest apologies, Matt," he said. "I had considered that issue, but with our pursuers being Trackers instead of Hunters, I did not believe there would be any great risk to you and yours."

"Perhaps you might want to recalculate that," Matt shot back, the unmistakable edge of frustration in his voice. To Odrimae he concluded, "Your enemies won't be here tomorrow. We'll be fine."

And with that, he left.

JasraLantill 01-31-2008 06:42 PM

"Ok, well, we'll need to at least visit this store," Ishi said to Jaiera as she pointed to a newspaper ad for the mall Matt had given to them. "They're having a 'sale'."

She flipped the page and then gasped. "Oh! Look!" She turned to Jaeira pointed excitedly to an advertisement of a current action/adventure film. "A movie! We have to go and see a movie! From what I gather it is the pinnacle of human entertainment media, and it would most certainly be an excellent opportunity to study not only humans in a social environment, but to gather more insight on popular cultural references and euphemisms."

She handed the paper to Jaiera. "Here. Take this to your brother. See if you can convince him that it would be a good idea. Then he can convince Matt."

Writer 02-10-2008 01:42 AM

((Thinkin' we need a time skip...))

The next morning, after the morning rituals were taken care of, everyone who wanted to were loaded into the truck and the van, and the group all headed south, toward Boise. It took roughly two hours and fifteen minutes (because Matt was speeding, much to Ishi's paranoid concern). They made it to the mall in exactly two and a half hours.

Jathan had at first been reluctant to agree to the movie idea, but with nonstop pressure from Jaiera on the long car ride, he finally gave in to the idea. They would eat lunch at the mall and then load into the cars again to go to the movie theater, not more than ten minutes away (though Ishi calculated Matt's driving would get them there in five).

Once at the mall, they split up into small groups of two to four, each group with both Humans and Jabrics. The Humans each had a credit card and everyone was warned not to go over the limit.

((All participants: See discussion thread))

starmark2k 02-10-2008 12:07 PM

Dianne had led her group through all the various boutiques and shops that the Jabrics decided were important for their social integration. For some reason Matt thought it was a good idea to send all the women off together, he probably felt the stereotype that women liked shopping would translate through the species. Dianne knew this was false because she despised shopping.

To make things worse the Female Jabric that chose the image of a man to disguise herself as had chosen to go with the women. Although she never said it out loud everyone (well at least the humans) knew that of all the dislike she had for the Aliens it was amplified with Ishi.

The dislike Dianne had may have been misinterpreted as xenophobia, but it wasn’t, in fact she was quite excited by the fact that intelligent life existed beyond earth. The problem was that the only other intelligent life she could compare the Jabric to were Humans, and humans as a species had a tendency to have god complexes especially around ‘lesser Species. It was because of this she wanted the other humans to be cautious with information given to the Aliens.
Titel stayed at the back of his group, he stayed close to the rest of the group he was in but he didn’t like this little expedition. The planet, technology and people were so primitive compared to that he was used to on his home world. He felt like he was in a prison, trapped on this planet in the human form unable to truly express himself or leave.

He wanted to leave this world and go home, he’d prefer to fight than hide on the wretched planet he had followed Jathan too. Now he was following Jathan once again exploring human commerce, he was both bored and irritated.

JasraLantill 02-10-2008 05:23 PM

Ishi sat on a chair just outside a ladies changing room. Jaiera was inside, trying on an ensemble that they had seen in the window of the store, but since Ishi's appearance was male, she couldn't go with Jaiera.

Instead she sat outside on a chair, watching and observing the humans around her as they shopped in the store.

"They should have more chairs for us guys here," a deep voice said from beside her.

Ishi turned her head to notice a human male, older and grayer than what she looked to be, and laden with a couple of shopping bags in both hands. "Oh, I'm sorry...." She rose and offered him her seat. "Please, have mine."

"Thanks, pal." The man sat down wearily. "It's the wife's birthday, you see," he said. "And since I never know quite what to get her, I always end up agreeing to take her shopping for her to get what she wants. Only," he sighed, "she can never decide."

"There are many products to choose from in this establishment," Ishi agreed.

The man nodded. "In here, out there...." The man waved in an all-encompassing gesture. "It all costs me money."

"I just use the credit card."

"Oh!" The man seemed positively dismayed. "Don't even talk to me about credit cards! Evil things, they are."

"Really?" Ishi was intrigued. "I was under the impression they were the basis of modern economic commerce?"

The man nodded. "Oh, they are. They really, really are." He shook his head. "Evil things." The man lifted up his bags. "Ee-ville," he said in a whisper. The man nodded towards the door to the changing rooms. "So, who are you waiting for, pal? Wife?"

"No. Just a friend."

The man suddenly looked up. His wife was exiting the changing room. "Do you have one of those jackets in my size?" she asked a shop assistant, pointing at the display window. "The young lady in there is trying one on and she said it was out on display."

As the shop assistant helped his wife, the man nodded. "Young lady. Ah. I had a friend like that once." He rubbed his graying hair, then grinned. "When I was younger, of course." He motioned Ishi in closer. "Word of advice, pal," he said in a conspiratorial whisper. "Use cash whenever you can, and never use a credit card unless it's something you can justify purchasing for yourself. Otherwise, if the wife sees the bill, you've got a lot of explaining to do."

Ishi was a bit puzzled about what the man was talking about, and so she just politely nodded. But she was curious. Giving a quick look over her shoulder to be assured that Dianne and Pallax were apparently out of earshot, she quietly asked him, "So, how would one go about explaining something like that?"

Rogue Nine 02-13-2008 07:21 PM

Cael looked behind him and observed the four Jabric men following him through the mall. It wasn't a sight out of the ordinary to the casual observer, but Cael was anything but. He noticed their unconscious mannerisms, the uncomfortable set they had to their shoulders...they were definitely still getting used to 'being' human. Though they looked every bit like normal human males, they still needed some work in the behavior department. And Cael didn't know anyplace better to learn how to be a human male than the local sports bar.

"Well, here we are, gentlemen," he said to them as they came upon the outside of the bar, the glow of the flashing neon beer advertisements splashing off their clothing. "You're all going to get a crash course in watching sports, drinking beer and killing time while the women go frolic and spend loads of money." At their confused and curious looks, Cael couldn't help but chuckle. "That's the way things work here on Earth, unfortunately." He beckoned them to follow him as he headed for the barstools. "Let's get pissed."

JasraLantill 02-15-2008 08:08 PM

After listening to the man in the clothing shop detail just how many ways there were to lie about having a second partner in response to queries from his primary partner on the matter, Ishi was completely confused. All her research thus far had indicated that humans were genetically prone to having multiple relationships, and she was puzzled as to why there seemed to be such strict, self-imposed cultural restrictions on the matter in place.

She, being a Jabrac, could not comprehend the reason why choosing or refusing a mate had to be so complicated. And so she sought to find additional information on the subject. Perhaps it was the selection process itself that complicated things.

She looked around. Jaiera was still trying on clothing in the changing room. Pallax, ever the vigilant one, stood near the entrance of the shop, staring out into the stream of people walking past in the main corridor of the mall. And their human guide for the day, Dianne, was looking bored as she listlessly rummaged through a circular rack of shirts on hangers.

She decided that since it was a human conundrum, Dianne was the one she would have to ask about the subject, and so she went over to her.

"Dianne," Ishi started. "What kind of qualities do you look for in a mate? Is it merely physical attractiveness or is it more esoteric traits that you seek?"

Writer 02-15-2008 11:42 PM

((It's a bit of a smaller mall, Niner. No bar, sorry to say. Old Chicago probably has some beer, though... and they've got the additional benefit of having pizza :) ... though now that I think about it, I bet there's a bar in there too :p ))

Matt was on edge all the way down to Boise, and it didn't get better wandering around the mall with Cael, Jathan, Shaqui, and Odrimae. All the while, even as they went into the Old Chicago near the mall's main entrance, Jathan's cool dismissal of the potential danger to Matt and his friends was disturbing. He just couldn't shake the feeling of unease at the thought of the Jabrics' enemies honing in on Earth. Truth be told, he wanted to race back to the observatory and watch the skies for their approach. As it was, he strolled up to the bar beside Cael and slumped onto one of the stools.

"I dunno, man," he muttered to Cael, "it's been a month. Things were going okay, yeah? Then, we get the bright idea - Ishi gets the bright idea - to do this outing thing... and that is when Jathan decides to go into a detailed explanation of their enemies?"

He sighed. "What are we even doing with them? Do you think... well, might Dianne be right in being... you know... hesitant about them?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jaiera came out of the dressing room finally, with a puzzled look on her face. "It's so... tight," she confessed in a hushed whisper to Ishi. "It's like a second skin, practically." She shot a worried look to Dianne and asked, "Do you humans wear this sort of thing? Really?"

The item of clothing in question was a t-shirt, fully suitable by Human standards for wearing out and about, but it was entirely possible that Jaiera might have grabbed a size too small.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Logan, come back me up, will you?" Kayla asked softly. "Looking through Hubble, here..."

Logan crossed the room and bent to look. With a frown, he said, "That's looking... not good."

"Yeah," Kayla agreed. "Make a call?"

Logan nodded. "I'll inform my superiors, you tell yours."

They got on their separate phones and made their calls. When the calls ended, they turned to one another.

"Mine said to let it play out," Kayla said. "Jabrics want help, they got to ask for it, go through all the proper diplomatic channels."

Logan grunted. "With Trackers chasing them? Keh... they're more likely to solicit help unasked by running helter skelter through a crowded place... you know what I mean?"

Kayla grinned. "Yeah," she agreed. "So what did your guys say?"

"Let the Trackers land before warning Matt or Jathan," Logan answered. "They want a shot at restraining one or more of the Trackers first."

"And they're still debating on the Council of Jabros... or what's left of it, yeah?" Kayla asked. "My guys too. Let them stay or send them away... it's all just a tossup to the higher ups..."

Logan shrugged. "Nothing better than to wait now."

They settled in, both watching the images Hubble was capturing.

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