Good morning, all! Welcome to yet another Fiction Friday, with the return of Trycanta to the realm of flash fictions! My apologies for a lack of blog post last week, but the Dangerverse decided that I was going to write it NOW and would not give me any brain-space for anything else. Stories can be demanding little buggers at times.
In any case, I'm back on track this week (after having made all my DV readers scream, which was fun), and writing once more about the intriguing world of Trycanta. Today's story is set in the Celitar Confederation, down the timeline a little ways from the human settlement of the world, but there's still a lot the humans don't know...
Please enjoy, and let me know if you have questions. I might even find the time to answer them this week! (Been being very bad about that lately. Sorry.) Remember, authors who are happy from reviews, comments, and sales tend to write more, in all kinds of different worlds and ways...
Panni sat down on the bench, spreading her books across it without a qualm. The zoo was closed, after all, meaning she and one of the other advanced xenobiology students from the University of Nassus had this area to themselves.
A shadow fell across the floor at her feet, and she looked up.
They were here first, after all.
The Trycantan greatcat regarding her steadily from the other side of the moat surrounding his enclosure had probably, Panni thought, been the apex predator in his little slice of the grasslands outside the city of Nassus, before the injury to a foreleg that had left him unable to run when one of the zoo's bio teams had approached him about a year before. The opportunity to study the reclusive animals up close had been hailed with joy by every biologist in the Confederation, and the majestic creature, dubbed "Sandy" for the color of his coat, had been on display here at the zoo ever since.
"I wonder sometimes what he thinks about us," she said musingly, drawing her knees up to serve as a makeshift desk, then flipping open her textbook to locate the first genetics problem she'd need to diagram and explain in preparation for tomorrow's classwork. "All these little two-legged things scurrying around, always coming and going so fast..."
"Little's not quite fair." The words floated through the air from the general direction of Panni's fellow student, though all she could see of him was a black-and-silver head bent over his books (her own fashionable hairstriping was a bit more subtle, alternating a warm tawny tone like Sandy's fur with her natural rich brown). "A full-grown male human is within the same weight range as a full-grown male greatcat—it's just distributed differently. The same goes for the females. Or so I'd guess," he added hastily.
"That makes sense." Panni copied the parameters she'd need from book to page, then started to draw her diagram. "So what are you studying? I mean, I know it's xeno-bi, we're the only ones who get the internships here, but what specifically are you doing right now? I'm exploring the recessive and dominant traits in small to medium Trycantan animals, and how co-dominance works as opposed to animals from Earth."
"I'm actually doing a long-term research project," her fellow student said after a few moments. "On the interaction of two very different biomes, and how they might change each other. For better, or for worse."
"Here's hoping it's better." Finishing the outline of her diagram, Panni began to add the symbols for the pieces of genetic matter the problem posited, working out how many combinations were possible and what the physical results would look like to the unassisted eye. "So that's why you're in here, then? To watch how people react to Sandy here, and what he does about them? That almost sounds more like xeno-psych than xeno-bi." She chuckled under her breath. "If only he could talk."
"Yeah." Her fellow student laughed, though Panni wondered if she were making up the strain in his voice. "If only. So, what about you? Which animals are you comparing? Earth and Trycantan mammals are pretty similar, from what I've seen, but there's a lot more diversity in the reptile category, or maybe I should say reptiloid.."
The easy, friendly chat continued for over an hour as Panni worked her way through her problems, winding in and out of shop and school talk before detouring to families, friendships, and growings up, or lack thereof in younger siblings and cousins. It wasn't until she was packing up her books that Panni realized an important gap in her knowledge of her conversation partner.
"I'm sorry," she said, looking towards his bench. "What's your name again?"
The bench was empty.
"Well." Panni shrugged, turning away, hoping her surprise and hurt didn't show too clearly on the security cameras for this area (though Trycantan-made electronics were still somewhat buggy, as compared to the ones from Earth she'd seen in the university's collection, so she thought she was okay). "That's polite. Fine, take off, I didn't want to be friends with you anyway. You're probably so scared of being around other people that you can't even look at them. Never looked at me once all this time we've been talking, did you? Kept your eyes on your work, your head bopping along to whatever you had on those earphones..."
Just as she pushed open the first of the double doors to head out into a warm early autumn night, a paper airplane zoomed past her head to crash into the outer door.
"What—" Panni checked over her shoulder, but the only thing visible from her vantage point was Sandy, sprawled with total unconcern over his sunning rocks. "This keeps getting weirder," she muttered, bending to pick up the airplane.
Black markings across its wings caught her eye. Carefully, she unfolded it, starting to smile as she did.
"Sure, Xandre." Panni folded up the plane again and tucked it inside her bag, waving towards the interior of the exhibit. "Friends it is."
For a moment, she almost thought Sandy was smiling back at her.