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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 25: Slade 176
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 180
For the next five days everything was rather routine. Slade was hitting his head less frequently, but his back was a bit sore from constantly stooping and ducking. He also was starting actually to learn the modern parakeet dialect, as was Shella, and they would sometimes practice by trying to talk with each other. The teaching assistant still escorted them to meals and checked on them several times a day.
At lunch on the fifth day the archaeology professor joined them. Slade established a link with the assistant so he could understand more easily.
“The Dean wants to meet with you this afternoon. Apparently he has several things he wants to discuss, and the professors you met last week will also be there.”
Slade almost said he was busy today, but he decided that the joke might not translate, so instead he simply asked, “How do I get there?”
“Oh, I’ll come get you,” the professor answered. “I just wanted to be sure you would be ready.”
The professor rushed off. “Well,” he said to Shella in English, “let’s hope it’s good news.
True to his word, the professor arrived a couple hours after lunch. “Ready?” he asked, and Slade and Shella were, so they followed him across campus.
The Dean’s office was spacious in two dimensions, but Slade was again stooping. Shella found a chair she could barely manage, but Slade thought he was going to have to stand. He thought of sitting on the desk, but decided that would be rude.
The Dean’s secretary had let the three of them into the office to wait, and it was a few minutes before the Dean arrived, along with the other two professors whom Slade was calling Lawyer and Engineer. On entering the Dean whistled something, and Slade realized he wasn’t maintaining a language link and couldn’t make out what was said. He glanced around the room, but the teaching assistant was not there. He tried to catch a link to the antiquities professor’s mind, and failed. He had to come up with something; the Dean was still whistling. Not panicking, he decided to target the Dean. He was successful.
“So I thought if we met we might be able to resolve some of these problems. Where should we begin?”
Slade decided that even though he hadn’t heard most of the preliminaries, he had a fairly good idea about what the problems were, so he started.
“It seems to me,” he whistled, “that the core problem is that my wife and I are going to need a place to live, and that means we’re going to need money to buy land and build a house. The simplest way to get that, it seems to me, would be to create these machines that your world doesn’t have and live on the patent royalties, but that’s apparently complicated by the fact that since we’re not parakeets we can’t hold patents.”
“What’s wrong,” the Dean replied, “with the married student housing in which you’re staying?”
“Well, I’m sure it’s wonderful for married students, but there’s the fact that I can’t stand up straight, I’ve banged my head more times this week than I have in many years, I don’t fit in the bed or in the chairs, and I have to stoop to get through the doors.”
It may have been at that moment that the Dean looked at Slade and realized just how tall he was, towering to the ceiling and bent slightly.
“Oh, dear, I see. Please, won’t you sit--um--where? I guess, sit on the desk.”
“Thank you,” Slade said, and he gently settled on the near corner. “Apart from that, I’m not expecting to leave here for at least months, maybe years, and while I appreciate your hospitality I don’t want to impose for longer than necessary.”
“Well, I assure you, it’s no imposition. We’re thrilled to have you with us. But I do see the problem with your, er, size.” He then addressed one of the other professors by name, which didn’t translate, and continued, “What can we do about providing the Slades with their own property?”
Since Lawyer answered, Slade guessed that it was his name. “Well, it’s more complicated than I originally considered. It appears that the Slades can’t actually own property. They could probably buy and sell in the retail stores, because cash transactions aren’t regulated, but they couldn’t buy land or a house. After all, although birds have tried, you can’t leave your nest to your cockatoo when you die.”
“What if,” the Dean suggested, “someone owned it on their behalf?”
Lawyer seemed to think about this. “That might work. But it would be complicated. After all, what would happen if the legal owner died?”
“What if the legal owner were the university?”
“I get it,” Slade interrupted. “You already own the land, we would build a house on it somewhere, you would pay for it and when we invent something the University would hold the patents and collect the royalties in trust for us--like someone who wants to leave their property to their cockatoo but instead leaves it in a trust to be managed by trustees on behalf of the cockatoo.”
“Exactly,” the Dean whistled.
“That could work,” Lawyer added. “The paperwork would be tricky, but I think it can be done.”
“Very good,” the Dean said. “We’ll have to decide on where to build our new building and get someone from the architecture college to design it in cooperation with the Slades. Of course, we’ll have to finance it. What do you suggest we invent first,” and again the Dean used a name which Slade decided must be Engineer.
“My impression from our earlier discussion is that the electrical sound communicator is probably the easiest to create and might be the easiest to market. We should do that first.”
“Very good. Bob, can you start working with Engineer on that tomorrow?”
Slade found it interesting that once he had decided that that particular sound referred to the engineer, his translation skill made the connection for him, as this means that person. But he didn’t have a chance to consider it.
“Absolutely. Someone will have to get us together, as I don’t really know my way around campus and I can’t actually read the modern language so signs are no help.”
“I’ll come to your apartment,” Engineer said, “and we’ll go from there.”
“Excellent,” the Dean said. “Now, what about the press problem.”
“I--I’m sorry,” Slade stammered. “I think I missed that?”
“Word of your presence has leaked out from the campus. Of course, no one who actually knows anything has said anything, but the newspapers are speculating concerning the giant creatures seen on the university campus. We’re going to have to make a statement, and particularly once we start building your house. I am simply not sure what to say or when to say it.”
It did seem a problem. The Dean continued.
“If we tell them one of the ancient gods has returned, the scientific community is going to laugh at us, and our graduates will lose credibility in those fields. If we tell them that we have been visited by aliens from another world, that will raise a host of questions, and the government might become involved. If we tell them nothing?”
Slade answered, “They will continue to speculate. Let them. The time will come when we can give them answers. Let’s get our first invention out first, if we can. Meanwhile, we stall--there will be a press announcement, gentlebirds, when we are ready. Meanwhile, we have no comment.”
The Dean was nodding.
“Very good then. If there’s nothing else, Lawyer, see about those papers, Engineer, get started on that invention, and I will look for a suitable piece of ground for our new building. Thank you all for coming.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #437: Characters Relate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: