It was a horrible state of affairs and everything seemed to have worked out right for the Haphaestus colony since peace had broken out six years ago between the Humans and Alarie. A small human colony, Hephaestus never the less had several prominent universities that accepted students from just about everywhere in UEC controlled space. And for the last three years had been attempting to integrate a growing body of Alarie students.
The planet Hephaestus was an Earth-like planet in orbit around the star Beta Aquilae with slighty above Earth-normal gravity, about 1.2 g, and was rich in metals and trans-uranics. It was also more geologically active than Earth, thus the name given it when the first settlement was established. Despite the frequent strings of volcanic and seismic occurrances, the colony had thrived.
Oddly, when the first universities had been established, the main courses of study had been geared toward the medical fields rather than engineering and trades. Thus, Hephaestus now boasted numerous genetic research concerns, which was in part what had drawn Alarie interest to begin with.
Sialani Merin was one such student. In her fourty-third year, she was still young by Alarie standards and could pass for someone in her mid-twenties by Human standards. During the war, she had been a low-ranking enlisted soldier who had seen action and captured her share of POWs, the majority of whom had since been repatriated. Fortunately, to her mind, she couldn't claim a single confirmed kill on any Humans.
She was currently on reserve status, and had decided to take the opportunity to study Humans up close at one of their own places of learning. As such, she had enrolled at Tagon-Spencer University with a major in Bio-Chemistry and a minor in Comparative Biologies. Comparative Biologies was still a new field, as Humans had only made real contact with other intelligent life during the war.
Sialani was in her second year as a student, and had made a number of friends, but one stood out for her. Spotting her friend from across the quad, she gave him a wave and headed toward him, staying in the marked off walkways set up for the university's larger students.
Looking up in time to see his friend waving, Tim Dunlop smiled and returned the greeting. Somehow, he always knew when Sialani was around. It wasn't anything as defined and developed as a Psion's ability to sense a being's presence, but something more instinctive, like recognizing a faint scent carried on a breeze. Watching as she made her way toward him, Tim couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy at her tall, strong, healthy body.
His own was weak and faulty, even by human standards. Despite his six foot two inch height, he had been born with a debilitating neurological disorder that had necessitated the amputation of his right lung at birth, and later caused his eyes to fail. Even with the current sophistication of cybernetic prosthetics, his body had a tendency to reject artificial aids. Although the eyes worked, he often had bouts of intense headaches if he didn't remove them every six hours.
At 21 Standard Years old, he was fairly well muscled, due mainly to Hephaestus' heavier gravity, but tired easily and was never free of the aches in his joints. While he had full range of movement, he tended to move like an old man. Shaking away the irrational feeling of unfairness and leaning on his cane, he waited patiently as Sialani made her way around the quad.
The friends chatted as they sat at lunch. The campus cafeteria had been expanded to accomodate the university's Alarie students. The central floor was exclusively for the Alarie, while balconies and walkways along the walls were arranged for the Humans. The entire affair had the open air feel of a mall food court or parkside cafe. Sitting at a table near the balconies, Sialani discussed her course studies with Tim, who was situated at a table near her shoulder by the third storey rail. Tim was majoring in Bio-Chemistry and Xenogenetics, and the two had long sounded off each other on matters in their fields. At first, as a lark, the two had bantered about the possibility of re-openning the Alarie research into reviving the long-vanished male half of Sialani's species. As the two considered it, the banter had turned into seriously study.
As yet, it was all theoretical work, as neither had access to the labs and equipment necessary for practical work. Today, their discusssion turned to less serious matters.
"Seriously. That's what happens when a tank tries to play chicken with kalgath. Sure, ablative composites are great for deflecting low-angle artillery and large caliber fire, but a kalgath's skull is really thick."
"No way. You want me to believe that a Heckler MBT can get knocked off its tracks by an animal half its mass? I think you're pulling my leg on this one."
"I could pull it, if you'd like, "Sialani teased, earning her a chuckle from her tiny friend. "I don't know why you won't believe it though. There's actual wartime footage of it happening, and there are similar incidents with animals from your own Earth. What are they called? Mooz? I read somewhere that they used to knock rail freighters off their tracks."
"I'm not calling you a liar, Sia. Its just that video can be altered and some of what is claimed to be history from pre-UEC Earth seems a bit far fetched to be more than old entertainment reels mistaken for the real thing."
"So you're discounting that the reels might be real?"
"Agh! The pain! The pain! That was just horrible, Sia. Please, stop."
Their banter continued along similar lines before the two parted to attend their separate classes.