Based upon the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh.


Jago kept her eyes on the paidhi, he had crouched down.

There had been no signs that tighter security than normal was required, but they didn't take any chances with him. They were in the open and someone with ill intent towards Bren could attempt to slip through the surveillance net they had laid around the Saisuran Terraces. The Preservation Reserve at Isgrai'the was near. Jago would have preferred a trip when it wasn't main season for the tourists, but Lady Damiri had been quite adamant, no other time would do, at no other time would the water gardens be as beautiful as now.

And thus the trip had been planned to coincide with end of court session. Their shuttle fleet complete for now, Lord Geigi establishing an atevi presences on the space station, the provinces in relative quiet.. The paidhi could take one of his rare vacations. The Terraces, his first station before going to his new coastal estate, closed to the public since yesterday so that security could go over them before allowing the paidhi to come. While arrangements for the tour had been made, Bren had delicately stated his disappointment of not being able to meet the general populace.

They had come up with a solution to that as well, Tabini had made some suggestions of his own.

Her ear piece spat static. Banichi had everything under control, no suspicious movements.

A few more minutes and Bren would be in more secure parts of Saisuran. But he didn't seem inclined to leave any sooner than the time security had allotted to him.

With obvious interest he listened to the three children telling him about the water plants in this part of the garden. The children were clearly delighted to have someone so important paying attention to them.

This was the last trio of excited school children. In groups of three they had shown the paidhi around the garden, a camera team, Tabini's idea, accompanying them.

The children and their families had been screened weeks in advance. So far there had been only one incident.

The children and their teachers had only seen humans on television, they had been a bit overwhelmed by meeting one face to face. Bren had been more open than Jago could have wished, allowing the children to touch his clothes and hands, a few of the more bolder ones had even stroked his braid.

Jago had overheard the female teachers commenting on his fair hair and his cuteness, she had ignored their other speculations.

The presentation was at an end, the three children stood up with all the agility of youth. A little bit of unobtrusive help and, hampered by his bullet proof vest, Bren was up as well.

"Thank you, nadiin, for showing me the Terraces."

Bren bowed to the children, the children bowed to him.

Little gifts were exchanged. A tisobita flower, not poisonous to humans, was appreciated by Bren. It had been selected, because "it's blooms are as white as the paidhi's ribbon, nand'paidhi". Junior security were entrusted with the flower, its felicitous three blooms gleaming in the afternoon sun. The paidhi handed out little cards with his ribbons. As all groups before them, the three children bowed effusively upon receiving their gifts.

The children were led away.

The manager of the Terraces stepped forward.

"Nand'Bren, it was a great honor to have you here today. One hopes that you will visit the Terraces again."

"The honor was wholly mine, nadi. The Terraces are truly beautiful, the paidhi will would consider himself privileged to see these prime example of horticulture again."

The manager bowed, clearly pleased by Bren's words. Tano handed the manager a thick book, the staff of the Saisuran Terraces had created a one of a kind book as a gift for the paidhi. Security had assured the safety of the book beforehand and kept watch over it till now.

Another round of bows as the book changed hands.

Finally they could whisk Bren away.

They would stay on the Terraces a bit longer, in a private secluded part, as the Terraces were once again opened to the public. There were more prospective visitors than usual, the news had announced Bren's coming, many tourists seemed to hope for a glimpse of a real life human.

Jago's ear piece crackled, the area was secure. No threat to the paidhi detected.

Junior security left to other tasks, Tano went to help Algini, the paidhi sat in a chair, intent on his new book. Senior security could relax, senior security could indulge the paidhi and sit down in a chair next to him.

The next half hour was spend with low talk about the book, looking at their part of the garden, tea, safe for humans. The paidhi professed himself to be content.

Jago was content: as close to happy as she could be while actively on duty. But their current level of threat risk analysis was minimal – barely more than their usual background baseline level – and she would soon be off-duty. Then she too could relax.

It was seldom enough she was able to see the paidhi relaxed like this. Usually he worried, about everybody. She had once called him midedeni, but she saw now that this wasn't true. He didn't seek association with everyone, he sought a good life for everyone, whether they be of his association or another. Or maybe he was because he didn't see associations as clearly as an ateva would. Sometimes he needed a little help he to arrive at the right conclusions and see what they saw, but from time to time, he surprised them. A thinking completely different from their own.

Dangerous in their profession.

A challenge to guess how he would react. Which direction he would take. Whether he would come after them despite admonitions or found hidden in some little cranny right in the middle of the action.

She enjoyed guessing. Was sure it gave her an edge over others in their profession. They only had to deal with the trampled paths one could see in every machimi. She needed to think beyond the simple facts of life.

Needed to endure Banichi's teasing of Jago rubbing off on the paidhi when Bren had gotten a tan during his last summer vacation.

It fascinated her to see the different colors a human could become, although she would be happy enough not see him become green or blue again. The trip to Taiben last winter, a walk along the premises, Bren's teeth had been shattering, but still he had trudged on, never a complaint to Tabini.

He had been warmer than herself the next morning. Tabini had considered bringing a human doctor to the main land, Bren had refused. It had be painful to see him wrecked with coughs and barely lucid, she had almost gone to Tabini, but Bren had gotten better.

Jago was sure that trip to Saisuran was in part Tabini's apology to Bren, for making him go beyond his limits. Not that Bren didn't deserve this vacation, he worked too hard. Tried to give them all a better life, even if some people steadfastly refused to see that.

Banichi sat down in a chair. Bren jerked up from his book, startled by the sudden appearance. There was dangerous glint in Banichi's eyes.

"Jago-ji, I see you got Bren to safety before the teachers could get to him. There was talk about dress ups and comparative research."

While Jago thought of a suitable comeback, Bren turned red.

Another challenging day in the man'chi of the paidhi.

There was nowhere she would rather be.