"Mom, you're choking me!" Rob managed to squeak out, his Mothers perfume filling his nose.

Instantly the arms surrounding him relaxed. Nate made a face at him as she gave Rob one more quick squeeze. "Sorry. I'm going to miss my little apprentice today!"

Rob stuck his tongue out at Nate, and then looked up at his Mother. She looked as if she were going to start crying at any moment.

He wasn't the only one to notice. Nate screwed up his face in a mixture of worry and dread, "Mom, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. First day of school is always hard." She smiled quickly, a smile Rob thought a little too watery. At Nate rolling his eyes again, she quickly added, "And someday you'll understand that, when you have kids."

"Yeah, right." Nate said with a dismissive snort. The housebot moved along the floor behind him, its vacuum attachment whirring softly as it moved into the living room.

Another set of arms wrapped themselves around Rob's neck, and he found himself bent down to Meggy's level as she afforded him a tight hug of her own, "You're going to have so much fun today! You have to tell me all about it when you get home!"

"You'll have homework tonight to keep yourself busy." Rob teased her.

"No way, not on the first day back! Besides, this is your first time back in a school in a while. I want to hear all about it!"

"Time to go! We'll miss the bus!" Ben announced, snaking one gangly arm through a battered backpack as he ran by. He quickly disappeared out the door. Meggy checked to make sure the many bright ribbons woven through her bright red hair were secure as she slowly followed.

"Have fun." Nate threw at Rob as he ran after Ben and Meggy.

His Father walked into the foyer and shouted out after them to have a good day. He turned and wrapped his Mother into such a tight bear-hug that she squealed. Letting her down, he looked over at Rob. "Ready for your big day?"

"You don't have to take me there today, Dad." Rob said as he grabbed his own backpack.

"Yes, I do. Your Mother wouldn't forgive me if I didn't."

Mom slapped his arm playfully. A few seconds later they were flying away in the old family hovercar, Mother waving at them from the porch.

"She doesn't have to worry so much. I'm fine." Rob said quietly.

"Try to be patient, she's just being a Mother. Your little adventure really scared her." Father said as the vehicle joined one of the many sky-lanes that led into the city. "Excited?"

Rob grinned, pulling at the strap of his backpack. "Yep! I can't believe I got into this school. It's supposed to be really tough."

"And let me guess, you thought the tests were easy."

"Well, there were some tough parts, but it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone said."

His Father laughed at him. "Well, thank your Mother for helping you with that."

Rob didn't deny it. His Mom had sacrificed a lot of time to keep him caught up by home-schooling while he'd recovered. And then once he felt better, he started flying through the lessons while accompanying her everywhere. So much so that returning to his old school had been out of the question as he had advanced several grades above his age-group.

He turned his attention out the window as they began entering the city, passing the giant sporting arena near the outskirts. As they flew the buildings became bigger and taller. Hovercars flew all around them, their computers carefully keeping them on a tangle of sky-ways that stretched from the ground to several lengths above the city.

On the other side of the city a tall large building rose up over several smaller ones. The height staggered along its length, the narrow ends ending in spires. A large half-octagon structure, with a large gash in the middle, protruded from the center of the building. The hovercar headed straight towards the slit, merging with other vehicles aiming for the same place.

"How will I find my way around?" Rob asked as he looked over the huge building, the question popping out of his mouth before he could stop it.

"That's why I'm here, to get you started." Father said with a smile.

The Hovercar glided to a stop in the midst of the slit, next to a wide walkway that led back into the building to a row of clear double doors. Rob quickly climbed out and waited for his Father to join him. The Hovercar then moved out of the way, going off on its own to one of the nearby parking garages to await a return signal.

Species of all kinds moved along the walkway, some bigger than him, some smaller, most quite older. As they entered the building, he figured out why it was so crowded. The building didn't hold just one school, it held several. Signs along the foyer pointed in different directions for a wide variety of schools, academies and universities.

His Father led him to the left, towards a sign that said "Earth University of Advanced Sciences", joining a line of parents and students at the front office. Rob studied the students around him, his heart sinking a little. He knew he was at the bottom age limit for admittance, but he had hoped to see a few others closer his age. As far as he could tell, there were none.

Father signed him in and in a matter of moments he held in his hand a school-issued portable computer. He activated the screen layered on the top lid and brought up a map of the school. The school consisted of four levels, all on one side of the building. He was disappointed to see that all his classes, highlighted in bright yellow, were on one level.

"We'll see about looking through the rest of this documentation tonight." His Father said as he paged through several files on the computer while Rob located his locker and then tried out the lock. "Although, it looks basic enough."

Rob heard a click, and with a little tug the door swung open. A foul odor burst free, making him cough and his eyes water. A hand pushed him roughly backwards. Through his watering eyes, he found his Father standing protectively between him and the locker.

A group of students walked by, complaining loudly about the smell. His eyes clearing, Rob looked around his Father.

"A scent bomb." Father said with a disgusted look on his face. Rob peered into the locker, seeing a thin, flat brown square laying at the bottom. "Looks like there are a few Bedaran practical jokers around here. Who knows how long it's been in there. Come on, let's go see someone. It's not dangerous, but it'll take a lot of serious cleaning to get the stink out."

In short order Rob received a new locker assignment, the door opened carefully until they were sure it was clear. He hung up his jacket in the back of the locker. "You can stop looking at me like that. I'm fine."

"I know, you're a big boy of thirteen now. Have the taxi pass for the ride home?"

"Mom already made me check three times. I'll come straight home as soon as classes are out."

His Father smiled at that. "We'll be waiting for you."

He looked about to say something else for a moment, before shaking his head. He put his hands in his pockets. With one last smile, he left.

He was glad he hadn't been hugged. The halls were filled with students, and he didn't need any teasing starting right away. He looked up and down the busy halls. A group of three Gracks waddled by and he smiled to himself. He might be younger than everyone else, but at least he wasn't the shortest.

He closed the locker and then scrolled through the class schedule, deciding he better start making his way through the crowds. He arrived in the first class with enough time to choose almost any seat he wanted. He chose one about halfway up to the front near the far wall with windows so he could see anyone who walked in.

The day didn't start as he expected. No Professor seemed to trust the entrance exams and so each class became a torture of one test after another. At first he felt panic, as he hadn't studied anything in particular the last few weeks. A lot of the other first-year students were nervous, as well, whispering among themselves between each test.

As the scores were read out at the end of each class, he began to relax a little. His name kept popping up at the top of the lists. Maybe he didn't have to worry so much about being able to keep up.

But, to be safe, he took the time during lunch to study up a little for his afternoon classes, noticing that he wasn't the only one doing so. The cafeteria remained subdued, with heads bent down to computers, other than a boisterous large group of Thourans in the far corner.

Some of whom proved to be in several of his classes, always taking over the desks at the back of each classroom. Rob also noticed that no one bothered to stand up to them. One of them bumped into him on the way to the back of the room in Advanced Mathematics Phase 1. Great, the first bullies of his new class. Maybe they had cause to be so cocky in math class as their twin brains meaning they typically excelled at math.

Still, he ended up pleased with his score, managing to beat several of the Thourans. After a month of worrying after being accepted to the school, he relaxed. He could do this. He would fit in.

The next class gave him reason to reconsider. An Aprilli turned both heads to glare at him from the front desk as he found his seat. Rob sat down and waited quietly, wondering what he had done to warrant such a stare from the teacher. He looked at, but didn't touch, the tools and parts that lay to one side of the workbench. Hopefully, it wouldn't be long before he could use them on a robotic project.

Once the class settled, Professor Anfosis began to speak, one of the heads addressing the class, the other looking down at an e-pad. "I am Professor Anfosis, and I will be attempting to teach you the basics of Robotics. Welcome to my lair!"

A small group of students twittered in the far corner. Then Rob recognized the phrase from an old human entertainment program that ran on late-night holo-vision.

"I've been reviewing the results of the placement tests. Rather high for a group of new students. I do not believe them!" the last part he said forcefully enough to make several students jump. "You will spend the next two weeks proving to me that you deserve to attend my classes."

His other head looked up and pinned Rob with a challenging stare, "And if you cannot prove it to me, then I will have you assigned to a make-up class, despite any placement scores. No cheating! Only thinking!"

Rob did his best not to break eye-contact. He knew the words were being directed at him, and he refused to show any weakness. Had his scores for this class been lower than everyone else?

The following test proved to be the most complex of the day. By the end, he mentally thanked his Mother for insisting he work so hard on all the basics before moving to the fun stuff while helping her with her projects. As he worked through the questions, he could hear her voice in his ear, repeating the simple laws of motion, preferred materials, and the laws governing Robotic design and development.

The room sat quietly as Professor Anfosis quickly reviewed the results. Rob took the chance to glance around the room. Only two humans were in the entire class, himself included. A dark-haired boy sat on the other side, fidgeting with his computer and constantly pushing up his glasses.

Glasses? Why would he be wearing glasses? Problems with eyesight could easily be corrected by surgery. His Grandma had it done not too long ago.


Rob immediately turned his attention back to the front of the room, to find the second head glaring at him with even more ferocity.

"Some of these scores will need to be verified with other tests." Professor Anfosis mused harshly. Immediately, Rob somehow knew his test was being referred to. "However, others show distinct promise."

The two heads looked at several other students, one of them resting on the other human. Rob looked down at the desk, the tools off to the side taunting him. Surely, he hadn't done that bad. It was his favorite subject!

Once outside of the classroom, he paused, looking down at the school map displayed on the top screen of the computer, his heart in his stomach. If he failed robotics, Mom would be heartbroken. Heck with Mom, he would be, too.

"Think you're so good in math." Rob heard just before he found himself shoved into the wall.

The next second he found his right arm trapped behind him, the computer clattering to the floor. He heard the soft whisper of a Thourans gill slits behind him. Another Thouran came around, grabbing at his other arm.

"You will think again on the next test." The raspy voice said into his ear.

Rob then realized what they wanted. He responded with heat, "I will not fail a test!"

"You will if you wish to continue."

Years of wrestling with his brothers kicked in. With one foot against the wall, he shoved backwards as hard as he could. The Thouran behind him lost his balance. As they fell Rob twisted around until he could face his attacker. His left hand shoved at the shoulder. His right arm suddenly free, he rolled away. As he came back to his feet, he grabbed his computer from off the floor.

The Thourans quickly recovered, their eyes glowing red in their anger as they stood as a group in front of him. But Rob's eyes were no longer on them, focused instead at who now stood directly behind them.

"So, we have another ordinary anger-prone human dumped upon this fine facility." Professor Anfosis said, both heads glaring at him. The Thourans jumped, turning around, but neither of the heads even glanced at them.

"But, sir." Rob began to protest, gesturing towards the group of Thourans.

"Enough. I will not hear excuses. All of you will disperse, immediately."

The Thourans eye color changed to the pink of extreme humor and the deep green of confidence. Sure, they would be glad. He got in trouble instead of them. But if they thought he would purposely fail a test, they had another thing coming.

Social Ethics being the next class seemed to be a sign. As he sat at a small desk taking another test, he silently fumed. No, he wouldn't fail, he would do better. If the twittering Thourans had a problem with it, that was too bad.

As he rode home alone in the back seat of a taxi, he decided he better rethink that part. Thourans ran together in herds, and this group had it in for him. They wouldn't just let this be. He needed to come up with a plan, and fast.

"How was school today? Did you have lots of fun?" His Mother immediately asked as soon as he arrived home.

Rob shrugged as he hung up his jacket, "Lots of tests. Sounds like there will be more tomorrow, too."

"Sounds busy. Need to study tonight?" She asked as she wiped her hands with a rag, working the last robotic joint lubricant out of the skin.

Rob picked up his backpack, his eyes narrowing, "Oh yeah. I have a lot of studying to do."

"I'll let you get to it, then. You can tell me more at dinner. I'll call you down when it's ready." She said as she turned back to her workroom, her face immediately becoming thoughtful in a look that Rob recognized as meaning she was trying to puzzle out a problem on a project.

Rob wandered up to his room. No class had given any homework yet, but Rob definitely had some of his own studying to do. Only after dinner did he finally find what he wanted. He grinned as he sat back in his chair, the answer displayed on the computer in front of him. Oh yes, he would have a surprise waiting.

He flinched as something hit the top of his head.

"Pay attention, class!" Meggy said gleefully.

Rob rolled his eyes as he swiveled his chair around. Meggy's hair stood on end from where she'd tried to put it up into a bun on the top of her head. A pair of fake glasses that he guessed had been previously worn by one of her dolls sat crookedly on her nose. She waved a wand at him.

"And tonight we have homework!"

Rob couldn't help but grin. "And what homework would that be?"

"You have to help the teacher give a test to the class!"

Rob shut down his computer and allowed himself to be dragged to Meggy's room. He sat in the back of her 'class' while she taught her class of dolls how to count apples. He got tapped on the head again as he played with the braids of one of the larger dolls.

Nate coming in to cause trouble got them more tappings with the wand as Meggy chastised him for interrupting her class. Rob found himself wrestled out of the room as Nate attempted to make off with one of the top students.

Surprisingly, Rob found himself on top, at which Meggy crowed in delight as she whapped Nate with the wand again. "Not such a hotshot now, mister!"

"You just got lucky." Nate yelled at Rob as their Mother yelled at them from downstairs to stop horsing around inside the house.

The next day his Father was unexpectedly called out by Galaxy Patrol. In the midst of him getting ready for a mission, Rob was allowed to take the taxi to school again. He just smiled at them when they gave him a hug and wished him a good day.

If only.

Most of the classes started with regular lessons, which of course meant homework. He finished a good chunk of it while eating lunch. Next came Math Class. As promised the day before, another test awaited them.

Rob quickly looked over the problems, not seeing any that would cause him much trouble. He glanced to the back of the classroom to find the Thourans scowling at him. He turned back to the test and carefully completed each problem. Once he finished he went over it again, just to make sure they were right.

This time his name was read off at the very top of the class. He felt the furious glares of those behind him. Several students glanced nervously back at the Thourans, having sensed something wrong.

Rob escaped from the room as soon as possible, losing himself in the throng of bodies. He managed to get to Robotics class and safely seated under the dismissive stare of Professor Anfosis before they could catch up with him. They muttered at him as they pushed to take over the desks in the back of the room.

Professor Anfosis chose to torture them with an essay on the history of Robotics. At first Rob smiled, sure he could do an excellent job as he had read so much on the subject. He finished long before the timed limit for the test.

But, his barely above flunking grade quickly wiped it off. The other human, a boy introduced to the rest of the class as Andrew Horton, was praised in front of everyone for the fine job he had done. Rob seethed as he realized the other boy had focused on the very same historical notations he had.

Rob left the class in a foul mood, stalking down the hallways. What was Professor Anfosis's problem, anyway? Rob knew he wasn't great in every subject, but he wasn't an idiot, either. His gut told him he'd done well on both the test and the essay.

He rounded the corner to head for Ethics class when he felt a big hand close down on his arm. The next second he found himself off his feet, both arms and legs held firmly, another hand over his mouth. For a split second he felt a deep terror of claustrophobia, a memory of light and dark flashing through his brain before it disappeared completely.

The sour smell of the Thourans filled his nose. They dragged him into the Bipedal bathroom, ordering everyone in it to get out. The four boys who had been inside scrambled to leave, one of them jostling the Thouran who had hold of his right arm.

Rob took advantage of the opportunity. He wrenched his arm free, striking the top of the gills of the neck of the one next to him. As the Thouran fell away the others tried to restrain him, shouting out to each other in their own language to coordinate the attack.

A fist knocked him in the side of the head, bodies trying to fall on him to pin him to the floor.

"Get off me!" Rob yelled at the one pinning his legs down. He managed to hit another gill set just as the leader managed to pin his left arm down to the floor.

Bucking and twisting, Rob managed to break free enough to make another stab at a neck. A third one fell to the floor, bouncing off the leader. Rob took the new freedom to get to his feet, making sure to not turn his back on him. The leader lunged at him, grabbing Robs by the shirt collar, trying to lift him off the ground.

Rob kicked out with his foot, knocking them both over. They rolled out of the bathroom and into the hall. As Rob kept the roll going, he pressed against one of the gills as he came out on top.

The Thouran instantly relaxed, coming to a rest on his back with his eyes fluttering in a half sleep.

"Interesting technique." A man said from behind him.

Rob scrambled to his feet and turned around, ready to continue the fight. A tall man with a tapered head, dressed in light blue suit stood only a few feet away. Rob recognized him instantly from when they had filed his school admittance papers.

Oh great, Mr. Gofle the Vice-Principal.

"Sir, I didn't start it!" Rob said quickly, motioning towards the bathroom.

"I know. I was already on my way down here after seeing your 'abduction' on the security cameras when several students also reported it." Mr. Gofle said, looking down at the slumbering Thouran, "Are you hurt?"

Rob checked his nose, but found it intact. "I don't think so, sir. But, I don't know where my computer is. I think I dropped it."

"We'll help you find it. Walk with me." Mr. Gofle said, motioning him forward.

As Rob stepped away several security droids descended on the Thourans. With a hand on his upper back, Mr. Gofle guided him down the hall and around a corner. "Very quick thinking."

Rob blinked. "Sir?"

"The pressure point. A very effective nonviolent way to deal with a Thouran. I'm impressed with your cool thought and actions in a moment of crisis."

Rob looked up, but couldn't read any emotions on the face of the Vice-Principal. "I don't want to be expelled. I really want to go to school here."

"Why would you be expelled?"

"Uh, fighting?"

"Did you incite them?"

"No, I just did my best at math."

Mr. Gofle chuckled, "Yes, for some of them that would be enough. I will deal with them later. Right now I'm concerned about you. Other than this, how are you fitting in?"

"Fine, I guess. Most classes are going fine."

"And what classes are not going fine?"

Rob's mind raced furiously, wondering how much he should reveal. In the end, he decided to just be honest. "Robotics. I don't think the teacher likes me. I can't figure out what I did wrong."

Mr. Gofle sighed. "Of course, Professor Anfosis. Mr. Simmons, as you pursue a life of science, you will find that you will be dealing with a wide variety of species, each of who sees the universe around us in a different way. It won't matter if you believe those views are right or wrong. Such an attitude will never win. What is important to remember is that some views you can work with, some you can come to an understanding with, some you simply need to accept. The trick is figuring out which one. I think you understand some of this, from your demonstration of knowing the Thourans."

Rob nodded. "Yes sir."

"What class were you heading for?"

"Social Ethics."

"Hm, rather appropriate. Well, let's see about getting you to class."

Fortunately, Ms. Bern didn't mind the small interruption. Rob found a seat near the front of the room. He smoothed down his hair and did his best to pay attention. As she announced pages to read for that evening's homework, he realized that he had a serious problem. He still didn't have his school computer. With all the homework assignments automatically loaded into it, he needed it back if he wanted to get everything done that night.

Rob grabbed his backpack and jacket from the locker, and then headed to the school office. While waiting to speak with Mr. Gofle, Professor Anfosis cantered by, a young human girl with glasses smiling up at him.

"Jumping Jehoshaphat's, what a brilliant design. Simple, easy to maintain, but productive. Going to take the Robotics Fair by storm, girl?" He said in a happy tone.

"What can I say? I have a great teacher." The blond girl said back to him.

Rob slunk down in his chair. Great, it was just him.

Mr. Gofle appeared, Robs computer in his hand. Mr. Gofle then saw him out to the entryway, and put him into a taxi himself. Before he closed the door, he handed him an envelope, "Please see that your parents read this. I'll need it signed and returned tomorrow morning."

"Yes sir."

Rob stared at it all the way home. He wanted to read it before he got home, but it was sealed. Darn, no way to prepare himself.

As soon as he got home, he handed off the note to his Mom and then ran for his room.

By the time he reached the door, his Mother screeched, "Robert Thomas Simmons, you get back down here!"

Rob dropped the backpack on his desk and slowly retraced his steps. Meggy poked her head out of her room as he passed, "What's going on."

"Nothing. Go back to your tea party." Rob mumbled.

Meggy didn't let that deter her, coming all the way out and following him down the hall. Rob descended partway down the stairs and then stopped.

His Mother stood at the bottom of the stairs looking up at him, the letter still in her hand. "A fight?"

"I didn't start it!"

"So it says! Are you hurt? Do you need to go to the doctor?" She asked, her eyes studying every inch of him.

"I'm fine, Mom!"

"Wow, your second day of school. You beat Nate!" Meggy said, leaning on the railing.

"I knew I should have kept you home another year."

"I'm fine, Mom. I can take care of myself. You can't keep me locked away and safe all my life." Rob said. He immediately wished he had chosen better words as he saw the hurt in her eyes, "Believe me, I'm fine. Mr. Gofle says he has things taken care of. I'll keep an eye out from now on."

"Keep an eye out for who?" Ben asked, having been drawn from the back of the house by the yelling.

"Your brother got into a fight at school today." Mother said, waving the letter in the air, "Rob, of all my boys!"

Ben looked at Rob with respect in his eyes, "Really? Did you win?"


"I was just asking." Ben said defensively.

"Did you win?" Meggy asked Rob.

"Yeah, it was a group of Thourans." He smiled at Meggy, tugging at one of her pigtail, "Don't look so worried. They didn't know what hit them."

"You just be careful. You never know what the big kids are capable of." Meggy said with knowing nod.

"Meggy, have you been in a fight?" Rob asked, suddenly suspicious.

"Time for a tea party!" Meggy announced, bounding back up the steps.

Ben and Nate pulled him to the side as soon as they could, insisting on all the gory details. Nate seemed disappointed that all Rob came away with was a bruise on the upper arm where he'd been grabbed and that there hadn't been an all-out fistfight.

"Man, you should at least have rough knuckles." Nate complained.

"I didn't punch them! It was a pressure point." Rob said.

"Nice pressure point. I need to look that up." Ben said.

Rob endured two more talking-to's from Mother, once after dinner, the next in the morning as he waited for the taxi to arrive. As she chased Meggy, trying to get the last pigtail tied back, he thought about what waited him at school. All he could think about was Professor Anfosis talking to the human girl, and then the boy in his class getting so much praise. And shouldn't the fight worry him more? But it was Professor Anfosis he couldn't get his mind off of.

He caught his breath, his mind latching onto something so silly that his rational mind instantly dismissed it. But, his mind kept coming back to it, his gut telling him this had to be it. What if it were that simple?

While his Mother remained distracted, he ran upstairs to Meggy's room. A few seconds later he was back downstairs, the taxi just gliding to a stop in front of the house.

"See you tonight!" Rob yelled.

"Be safe!" Mother yelled back.

"Punch 'em in the nose!" Meggy yelled at the same time.

Only one of the Thourans from the previous day appeared in the classes, and he sat alone and quiet in the front row of every class. Rob continued to take his usual spots in the middle, near the windows on the far side. In math class, Rob handed in the small amount of homework, and quietly worked on the days assignment, excitement building in him.

Then came the class he'd been waiting all day for. He stopped outside the door and slipped Meggy's fake glasses out of his pocket. Taking a deep breath, he put them on and walked inside. Without looking at the Professor, he sat down in his regular spot near the window.

Looking forward, he found himself being regarded by both heads, but not with a glare. Professor Anfosis attention became distracted by one of the higher grade students running parts in and out. Several groups of students arrived, filling up the remaining chairs at the workbenches.

Another test started the class. This time the scores weren't read out loud. Professor Anfosis looked over them and then launched into the basic design tenants of mobile robotics.

Finally, some interesting stuff.

Rob adjusted the glasses a little, the arms of which felt tight on the sides of his head. Several times, one of the heads turned to look curiously at him.

As the Professor started calling on people to answer questions concerning the lesson, Rob even found the courage to raise his hand to answer one. "In 2209 Horpenton Alexton, of Andelaide 2, invented the same quad-joint now used in most commercially available robots. It's known for its strength, versatility and ease of manufacture and low pricing."

The eyes blinked at him for a moment. One of the heads lifted higher, "Very good, Mr. Simmons. Now, who can tell me about the invention of the Amorack electrode, and its ramifications to robotic design?"

Rob didn't bother raising his hand for any other question, figuring he'd risked enough that day. Professor Anfosis didn't have it in for him today, and for now that was enough.

Rob thought about it the rest of the day. It still bothered him, but at least he'd found the answer. He decided, in the end, he 'could work with it'. No way was he going to risk failing Robotics.

Rob pulled his backpack from out of the locker, digging through the pockets for the taxi pass.

"Nice answer." Rob looked up to find Andrew Horton leaning against the next locker. He grimaced, "I was going to warn you about the glasses thing, but the first few days have been rough."

Rob stood up. "You knew?"

"Yeah, my older sister is in one of his advanced classes. She warned me. You okay after that fight yesterday?"

"I'm fine. My Mother is another matter."

The same girl he'd seen with Professor Anfosis the previous day came up behind Andrew. She smiled at him, "Do we have another member of the Four-Eyes Club?"

Andrew thumbed at the girl, "My sis, Gilly Horton."

"Rob Simmons, nice to meet you." Rob slipped off the glasses and scowled at them, "This is crazy. My brothers would slaughter me if they saw me with these on."

"It's part of the price you pay for being in some of the classes. If you have Ms. Bern's class, you better wear them in there, too. You'll be scored better on tests." Gilly said.

Rob slipped the glasses into the backpack. "Why?"

"Haven't you heard them use old sayings?"

"From late-night Holo-vision? Oh yeah."

"That's why. Professor Anfosis species communicates moods with scents. He doesn't understand human facial or body language. They also don't sleep like we do, so he stays up all night watching old shows, and uses them as a way to get a mental handle on how to deal those species that don't use scent. Guess what the old stereotype of a smart human is?" Gilly said as she slipped off her own glasses. "None of us need these, but it's the only way to get taken seriously."

"We need to get going." Andrew said, "Stop by our lunch table tomorrow and we'll introduce you to the others of the club."

Rob waved at them as they left. He looked up and down the halls of the school. Well, now he knew, and it looked like he was stuck with wearing the annoying things.

As he rode home he thought more about it. He certainly couldn't keep using Meggy's. They didn't fit right, and she would want them back. But maybe…

Oh yes. That idea would work great. If he had to wear the stupid things, he would do it his way.

A few weeks later he walked into the school with a new pair of glasses, the frames fitting quite comfortably. But, what the people around him couldn't see was the computer interface, displaying information along the edges of the lenses. As soon as they saw them, Gilly and Andrew wanted a pair of their own.

Another problem had also solved itself. Rob saw the Thourans around a few times, but they made a point of avoiding him. In the classes he took with them, he noticed how they now sat up front, the group separated.

And he kept his promise. He never purposely failed a test. No, he went at each class with everything he had.

As for Professor Anfosis, occasionally gazing at the young blond human boy sitting at the window workbench in wonder, he never knew what hit him.