Cat looked over the games, but didn’t see the attraction. Her mother and the ambassador weren’t anywhere in sight, so she wandered back to her room to pick up the paper with the pictures of clothes and then onward to find the private access to the lower levels. The access was an open mesh metal monstrosity of small narrow steps, turning frequently to fit into a small space. Why didn’t these creatures use sensible ramps? Gripping the rail, she stepped carefully downward, counting steps and trying to calculate where the level they parked the floater was.
Cat turned at the sound, and relaxed when she saw the Olver pacing over. Olver? Yeesh! A shaved Olver with a fake nose…
"You must be the not-really-a-Hisser I heard was coming."
Cat broke into a wide Olver-style grin, "Hey! Someone who’s not as old as the Universe." The Olver looming over her clapped her hands in agreement.
"I’m just out of School and paying back tuition with government work. Want a tour?"
"I'm Gyrm 29394857 if we’re being formal, but since the Ambassador says we have to speak English all the time, I’m afraid I’ve gained the nickname Gor, short version of Gorilla." She waved Cat through into a well lit laboratory. "It’s a native animal that unfortunately looks a lot like me, or at least it did before I shaved. Ugg." She peered around, then over the center bench. "Hey, Doc! visitors."
"Huft!" A Kersa straightened up from under the bench. There was some sort of pale hairlike stuff floating around, stuck to his ear and hair. He wiped it off and held it out, "Look, my lab has been invaded by little animals setting traps. How did they get in here?"
"Spiders." Gor nodded in recognition. "They get everywhere. The cleaning bots will take care of them."
"Bots! In MY lab!" The Kersa was thinner than most, one of the intellectual mutants, Cat guessed, and fairly old, although with Kersa it was hard to tell. "They put things away and clean up experiments before they are done." He glared at the Olver. "Don’t you dare send bots in here."
"You’d better get used to spiders and spider webs, then," Gor turned to Cat, "This is Doctor Domi, he’s our medic and also lead researcher."
"Ah ha!" The Kersa rounded the bench and looked Cat up and down, "You’re the Earth Grub that was adopted by a Hisloxi!" He was practically bouncing in excitement, "I’ve been waiting for you." He showed his teeth, the Kersa equivalent to a frown. "The Ambassador won’t let me examine a Human."
"Umm," Cat eyed the scientist with a bit of alarm, "What do you mean ‘examine’ Doctor Domi?"
"Nothing bad," He waved his arms around as if dismissing suspicions, "But I need to be sure that my remote sensors are calibrated correctly. How am I to know if they are picking up heartbeats or digestion, if I can’t check?"
"Umm, it seems pretty clear." Cat ventured.
"Ha! That is because you are not a scientist. Never, never assume anything." He nodded firmly at her.
"Well, I suppose, but not right now. I need to get clothes and stuff." Cat hoped she wouldn’t come to regret agreeing to whatever it was the doctor had in mind.
"Oh, you need the fabricator." Gor said, "It takes up half the basement. C’mon, I’ll show you."
"I was talking to a native girl, upstairs." Cat hesitated when the Olver grinned. "Yeah, I’ll bet it sounds funny, but I’ve never met any of these creatures before either. Anyway," Cat unfolded the paper, "She pointed out some things that would be suitable for school, and some stuff for my room."
The big beefy Olver looked over the pictures. "No problem, we’ll have your wardrobe stuffed in no time." She sighed a little over some of the frilly things. "These humans do know how to do decadence. I don’t dare wear any of it." Intersecting Cat’s questioning look she continued, "Look at me! I’m a spitting image of a big, dumb, over-muscled, MALE human."
Cat boggled a bit, and blinked, trying to see, not a shaver Olver but a human. Yes, tall even for a male human. Broad shouldered, hairy, even after shaving the face, but even with the false nose, undeniably an Olver. A female of course, not one of the cute little fluffy males. She shook her head. "Maybe after I’ve been around more humans. Now I just can’t see it. Nor why you shouldn’t get fancy things."
"Oh, humans are very odd about gender, the clothes are very distinct between them, especially fancy stuff, and they have a low tolerance for males that dress as females. Much less the other way around, in this subculture at this time. I suppose they’ll get around to equal opportunity cross dressing eventually, but at the moment, I have to act and dress like a male." They walked up under the control section of the machine, the raw materials tanks stretching off into the dimness of the basement. "You know how to program one of these things?"
"Sure, what do you use for the raw materials?" Cat looked over the displays, and chose ‘fabric’, ‘clothing’ and ‘earth’ as the starting parameters.
"Local stuff, the native fibers are very nice, we bought in bulk, right out of the field, and we’ve tapped a local source of hydrocarbons." Gor waved vaguely at the rear of the building, "The humans drilled an oil well that found just traces, not nearly enough for them to bother producing. The tiny flow is perfect for our needs so we’ve tapped it. There are a few other fibers and some chemicals for dyes we need to find a local source for, but we’ve worked around it so far." The big Olver looked over the pictures in the papers. "Those are good enough for scanning. Why don’t you do that while I set up the booth to measure you."
The fabricator was top of the line and easily extrapolated from the pictures to three dimensional models. Cat guessed a bit to finish the backs of the shirts. The ‘jeans’ came in a wide variety, so she was able to combine front and rear views and come up with complete models.
Gor frowned at them. "We’ll leave off the manufacturers labels, and we should change the decorative stitching on the pockets, that’s protected as well."
Cat nodded understandingly. One of the few things that the various star traveling races agreed on was ownership of inventions, right down to decorative patterns. With that in mind, they started getting creative with the jeans and then the shirts. Cat doubted some of the colors they decided on were fashionable locally, but she found them pleasing.
She shed her belt, tunic and sandals to step into the scanner booth, then cued the fabricator to turn out some test costumes.
Jeans were heavy and stiff, but somehow felt soft. "That’s the cotton, the native fiber I told you about." Gor said, "Real export possibilities, there."
The shirt felt confining, all around her arms. She sat down experimentally, and found the jeans bothersome too. "I guess I’ll have to get used to this." She grumbled, cueing up a mirror panel.
"It looks good," said Gorilla.
Cat stared appalled at the native in the reflection. Like it or not, I’m one of them. "The color’s good." She said firmly. "So, what else do I need?"
In the end they staggered up the ‘stairs’, Gor called them, with heaping loads of clothes, curtains, sheets, blankets, bedspread and rug. Then Gor left her to redecorate, and stash her new wardrobe.
She transformed her bedroom into as close as she could manage to a cabro log beach house. And she’d brought the piece de resistance with her. The picture was rolled into a protective tube and stuffed down the middle of her duffle. The thin electronic sheet clung readily to the wall and she unrolled it, and with some thought, repositioned and leveled it before turning it on.
She lay back on her tikou lounge/bed and watched the waves roll up Frethea beach. It had been such a fun summer, they’d joined with uncles Zeb and Nef and Nef’s family to rent the big cabin, she’d played right there with the little grubs, keeping an eye on them although they could all swim. The roar of the surf had filled all her dreams. She stifled homesickness, and froze the image. "Ter will pitch a fit if she sees it." She grumbled to herself. She scrambled through the rest of the papers, but finding nothing suitable, headed downstairs. She needed an Earth picture for a screen saver.
The newspaper was still spread around the table, and with a quick leaf through found a seaside scene, unfortunately with humans in it, but close enough to what she wanted. Ter and the Ambassador came down the steps, her mother saying, "So I’ll serve you privately every morning." She turned to Cat, Nodding approvingly at the new clothes. "You look like you’ll fit right in. Did you enjoy meeting humans? I found them quite polite, very well mannered."
"Yeah, it wasn’t too bad." Cat admitted. "I got some wardrobe advice and hunted down the fabricator." She looked at the picture she’d found. "I’m going to scan this and use it for a wall decoration."
The Ambassador opened and closed his right hand twice. "You can find higher resolution pictures on the local computer net. I’ve been impressed at the capabilities of their system."
"The Ambassador says we will need to buy you a local computer, for compatibility." Ter put in. "We can do that as soon as you get back from school tomorrow."
"OK, but you can’t go out, can you?" Cat started at her mother in consternation, realizing just how restricted her mother was going to be.
"No, she can’t," The Ambassador confirmed, "So I will drive you to school. The computer can be easily purchased over the local net."
"I can get to school," Cat said, "I need to start learning my way around."
The Ambassador was rotating his hands in a negative. "I have bad news about that, I am sorry to have to tell you that the Humans do not allow children to drive vehicles until they are sixteen."
Cat stared in horror, "But, but, I just got my stellar navigator’s license. I’ve been driving ground vehicles for ages!"
"Yes. It is unfortunate, but apparently young humans mature somewhat differently than Hisloxi, thus the high age limit."
"It’s just a year and a half, Cat." Ter put in. "You’ll be so busy you won’t hardly notice."
"Right." Cat gulped. So much for worrying about the ugly blocky design of the floater. Grounded for a year and a half. Kill me now, please!