The teenager sat in the alien sculpture garden, trying to be dignified and coherent as she scribbled madly on her writing tablet. Mostly, she was just making a story in which all the words, or so said her writing instructor, were typos.

Her instructor was pleased to inform her that an adult person "saving the world" was more likely to have associates or coworkers of fellow admirals than to rely on "friends." Furthermore, her instructor never failed to announce that "saving the world" was an unlikely escapade, requiring a dire cumulation of desperate coincidences which were entire unlikely to happen in any society which would produce brings capable of reading; problems were always caught before they could pile up to such immeasurable heights. It was someone's reputation that would be being saved, Sir Caff informed her. Or the life of some thug on the streets who'd gotten into unreasonable amounts of trouble by sleeping with someone's girlfriend, when that someone had a gun and a bad temper and not much respect for the law.

The world, Sir Caff informed her, could take care of itself.

Shara wasn't too sure of that; in her teenage wisdom, everything seemed inescapably horrendous, and what a more experienced person would see as insignificant dips in mood and personal fortune, Shara saw as earth-shattering events. And besides, reading a story let the reader escape into a dreamland; and, she thought, in a dream land, you wanted to matter more than you did in real life.

It was, she reflected, too bad that relations with the Cirrumpka were going so well; without universe-threatening drama, without thousands of crazed alien leeches, she was unlikely to get anywhere with her nascent novel. She was on page five. It had taken her six days, and she was inordinately proud of herself.

Of course, she hadn't ever seen a Cirrumpka. Maybe her father had, bu the didn't discuss such things; all he'd said at breakfast was that she should play in the garden, and be on her best manners- and to never, ever pick leaves from tone of the bushes. That last had been addressed to Sir Caff too. Sir Caff was one of the pet humans of the Cirrumpka. Sometimes he talked to bushes. Shara wasn't too sure about Sir Caff...

She leaned against a small ornamental wall, and sighed angstily at her notebook. "And then the gorgeous Cirrum man swept the human woman off her feet," she wrote, mouthing the words to herself for the sweet taste of them. "And the human woman, with her long, wavy brown hair-" at this point, Shara tried to gracefully toss her middling-length, somewhat oily dirt-brown hair over her shoulder, failed miserably, and spent the next several minutes spitting it out of her mouth and trying to get it to stop catching on the stones behind her- "Damn, damn, damn!" she shouted, and threw her notebook at the nearest shrub.

Sir Caff dove after it and then genuflected in front of the plant. Shara stared at him in denigrating confusion, until the small shrub slowly, ponderously, moved to tuck the place where the notebook had bounced off it it further into its leafy structure.

"Mooooommy," said the bush.

"Oh, shit." said Shara. At a guess, she wouldn't be able to go to the party tonight.