Chapter 19


Re: Application letter to Foxbury – Biology with elective in Veterinary Science

Dear Dr. Gilscarbo, PhD.
It is with great pleasure that I submit my application for the distinguished degree in Biology at Foxbury University.

At present, I am finishing my studies at Newcrest High, and I have already secured several scholarships. My dream is to become a veterinarian and open my very own vet clinic. I feel that this would be the best way to combine my love for animals and my need to do good.

As you may be aware, my mother and father also both attended Foxbury in their youth. My mother went on to become a great astrophysicist, responsible for recently reestablishing direct contact with our neighbours on Sixam.

My father became a renowned lawyer. It is my firm belief that attending Foxbury will also put me on the path to greatness.

For this essay, I have chosen to illustrate how animals have made a great difference in my life. I do not believe that I would be who I am today without my beloved childhood dog, Maggie, and the other pets in my life.

To understand what Maggie meant to me, let me first take you back to my early childhood. When my grandfather died, my entire family was understandably distraught, and my parents decided to adopt a young pitbull from a shelter. The dog immediately sensed that I, a toddler at the time, needed her protection, and she was always by my side.

Maggie and I grew up together, and she became my trusty companion, sleeping next to my bed every night, and waiting for me when I came home from school.

She was also by my side on the night that changed both my life and Sixam relations forever.

I had gone to bed while my older brother was out with some friends, but I wasn’t asleep yet when I heard him come home. I also heard unfamiliar voices and my mother’s excited screams of disbelief.

I climbed out of bed, and went out in the hall, where I saw my parents and my brother – with two people I didn’t yet know.

Of course, my mother had told me about her adventures on Sixam, but this was their first visit back in over a decade.

After a brief introduction, my father tried to put me back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.

I was scared because I knew that these people, who looked like my brother, could only have come to take him away.

My father tried to explain everything to me. He and my mother had been anticipating this for years.

He told me that Daniel’s biological father on Sixam was very ill and never had any other children.

It was important for my brother to go to Sixam and learn whatever he could while his father still lived, so he could take over his seat on the council.

As the first hybrid in a position of power at Sixam, my parents were worried for his safety, but his uncle, Tomnu, promised to keep him safe.

My mother, who had recently made the first breakthroughs in wormhole technology, suggested that she could go with them, to set up matching technology on Sixam, so direct communication, and perhaps later even travel, might become possible.

My father immediately asked to talk to her in private. He would not allow her to leave, and this was the first time I ever heard my parents have a serious fight.

I heard their loud voices through the wall, my father arguing that my mother couldn’t leave us, that he couldn’t lose her, and my mother crying, afraid to let her oldest son go alone. Again, Maggie comforted me.

I am happy that my mother decided to stay, and instead teach the Sixams as much as possible, so that they could set up the other portal on Sixam. If she had left, she might not have come back. My brother still has not.

While my parents were obviously very upset at the time, my brother was excited and wanted to go. The strangers, his uncle and grandmother, would take him with them when they returned to Sixam. Until then, my mother would teach them about her new technology.

The next few days, before they left, the rest of us tried to spend as much time with my brother as possible.

I admit that I was angry with him at first. I felt that he was abandoning me.

Who was now going to help me with homework and make me laugh when I had a rough day at school?

Luckily, we managed to make up before he left. And I could see why he wanted to go – it was both an obligation and an adventure to him.

My father also had a heart-to-heart with my brother, the last night before he left for Sixam.

It was a warm night and I could hear them outside my open window.

I know my father and brother both consider themselves true father and son, despite my brother’s origins. I hope spending time with his biological father on Sixam hasn’t changed that.

When the Sixams left, my dear brother left with them. I knew that it could take years before he would be able to travel back and visit us, especially if the wormhole technology never worked.

Trying to overcome the sadness of my brother leaving, my mother threw herself into her work. Sometimes I would barely see her for days, because she would stay late at the lab every day.

We now know that it was worth it, that she finally managed to secure a communication link, so we can get updates from my brother every few months, but she still hasn’t succeeded in establishing travel, and my brother is too busy to leave Sixam for a year or two just to visit.

My father tried to compensate for my mother’s constant working by spending more time with me.

But my father’s job was also very demanding, and I often spent my afternoons alone.

Most days, I only had Maggie for company.

But she was more than enough.

It’s not that I didn’t have friends, I had good friends at school, but I couldn’t exactly schedule playdates every single day.

One day, when I was alone at the playground, I saw a stray cat. She was limping and very dirty, and would not let me get near her, but I wanted to help her.

I spent the entire day trying to befriend her, and she finally let me pick her up so we could take her to the vet.

The cat had no chip or ear tattoo, and when no one came forward to claim her, my parents decided that I could keep her. I named her Winky.

Seeing how the veterinarian expertly diagnosed her problems and treated her while being kind and respectful made me realise that this is what I want to do with my life as well.

My parents tell me that I would play vet constantly, and bring home any animal I found. I was allowed to keep smaller birds and a couple of mice while nursing them back to health, but my parents helped me take any stray cats and dogs to the shelter, or I would have had an entire zoo.

A few years later, one of our neighbours had to move into a retirement home, and had to find a new home for her old dog, Milo. I had often been walking him for her, and she wanted me to have him. This time, my parents did not object.

Animals are what keeps me going, my reason to be courageous, kind, and disciplined. These are the qualities I will bring to Foxbury.

Thank youoooo99999ggggrrrrr;;;;;;;;33333333333

“Winky, seriously? Thanks for helping, but this is a very important letter.”

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope this essay gives you a better idea of the passion I bring to everything I do, and that I will bring to the field of veterinary medicine.

I look forward to speaking with you again in the future – hopefully as a student at your esteemed institution.

Eric Fyres-Munch Duchelli
Asphalt Abode

Chapter 18

First Contact

The death of Don was a hard blow for the family. The house feels empty and quiet without his broad shoulders and booming laugh.

Daniel in particular is struggling. Grandpa Don was his best friend.

Daniel was allowed to choose whether to stay in his old bedroom or move into Don’s room, and he chose Don’s. Zane often finds his oldest son crying under the covers when he comes to tuck him in at night.

Zane is also grieving, he was very close to his father-in-law, and his heart hurts for his family.

Eric is too young to fully understand, so he just cries and asks for his grandpa.

One night, after tucking in the boys, Zane finds Cora crying quietly in the living room.

“You okay, honey?”

Cora wipes her tears away.

“Yeah, it’s just… Everything.”

“I miss him too, Cora.”

“It’s not just dad. It’s… I feel old. And like I’m running out of time. I need to find a way to get to Sixam, and we’re not getting any younger. By the time Eric goes to university, we’ll be close to retirement.”

“Honey, we’re not that ancient. And you’re making progress at work, right? I don’t understand half of it, but even I have heard of wormholes. And if you can’t solve it, no one can.”

“Sorry, honey, I know I’m being too pessimistic. It’s just hard dealing with my own feelings and trying to cheer up the kids… I don’t know, maybe we should get that dog they keep begging for.”

“Another brilliant idea from my brilliant wife. We’ll go check out the local animal shelters tomorrow. Now come to bed.”

“DAD, IS THAT A DOG? Is that the surprise? Can we keep it?”

“That’s the plan, buddy! This is Maggie, she’s going to live with us now!”


“Yes, Eric. She’s our dog now.”


“And she’s a good doggie, Eric! Look, she can shake! The rest we will have to teach her.”

“Can I help teach her, dad? This is the best day ever!”

Maggie quickly becomes a beloved part of the family and Eric in particular is very attached to her.

Maggie seems to understand that he’s just a toddler and she is very gentle and patient with him. He is allowed to do anything to her, and she usually stays close and protects him.

She is also happy to watch a movie with Daniel, especially because he allows her to get on the couch.

Zane starts running again, something that he had stopped doing without Don, and takes Maggie out every morning – even when it rains.

Cora prefers evening runs. Maggie is just happy to be included.

Everyone is happier than they have been for a long time, and the wounds left behind by Don’s death are slowly healing.

At the lab, the rocket project has been abandoned. There are certain physical limits to the speed of a rocket, and Cora is investigating other options.

“Hey, honey, it’s me. Yeah, I need to stay late. Yes, again. I know, I’m sorry… I promise it’ll be the last time this week. Love you too. Kiss the boys goodnight for me.”

Several of Cora’s colleagues have joined her new project. They all want to help, not just because they care about Cora, but because it’ll be a huge technological breakthrough if they succeed.

Cora is working like a maniac, staying late at least every other day. Her colleagues are getting a little worried about her.

“Payton and I are leaving now, Cora. You’re the last one left.”

“Thanks, Elsa. Have a good night.”

“You too. Remember to go home, Cora.”

“I will.”

“Just… not yet. I need to finish this.”

At home, poor Zane falls asleep on the couch while waiting for Cora to come home. Caring for both of their sons and a dog while trying to become partner at the law firm is exhausting. And he needs the sleep, because tomorrow is a big day.

Grandma Morgan and grandpa Wolfgang are the first to arrive for Eric’s birthday, followed shortly by aunt Isabelle and her husband Conor.

Isabelle is pregnant with their second child. Their first son, Caiphus, was born less than a year after Cora and Zane’s wedding. Luckily, Conor’s parents has agreed to babysit him for the day.

“Anyway, Caiphus got such a unique name that I’m not sure we can do it again. Conor likes the name Jordon, but I’m not sure it’s really special enough for my taste.”

Morgan is extremely proud of her son and his little family. But then again, Zane was always the more responsible of her children.

Isabelle is happy for her brother, if slightly jealous of his obvious happiness. Her marriage with Conor is fine, but she might have preferred someone a bit more… exciting, if he hadn’t gotten her pregnant shortly after Cora and Zane’s wedding.

Wolfgang, of course, is mostly preoccupied with complaining about the dog.

Brie and Shawn has also left their kids, Jaxen and Alyson, at home. They claim it’s just for the convenience, but Zane suspects that they’re a bit worried about the dog.

“Happy birthday, Eric! Can you blow out the candles? Okay, let mommy help.”

“… it was really funny when Eric asked my father why he was always so grumpy, though.”

“Yeah, poor Wolfgang did not like that. Eric’s getting sassy. Before we know it, he starts school and then we blink and he’s getting married.”

“Cora, you’re doing it again. He’s only three years old. Relax.”

“Sorry, honey. I don’t know why I’m so worried. It just feels like the last few years flew by so quickly.”

“Cora! Are you saying I’m boring and forgettable?”

“No, you’re a huge dork.”

“Well, you’re a huge nerd!”

“Oh yeah? Would a nerd do this?”

“Mmmmguess not.”

“Stop worrying so much, Cora. We have all the time in the world.”

“I hope you’re right, honey.”

“Everything will be fine, my love.”

“So then I told her what the teacher said, and then -“

“Boys, there are three bathrooms in this house. Do you really have to wait for this one?”

“But, dad, the others are all the way upstairs!”

“The horror. Hurry up, or you’ll be late for school.”

“Yes, dad. Anyways, then she said…”

Daniel has grown into a charismatic young man, who has somehow managed to make being smart a cool thing in his school.

At first glance, Eric is growing up to look very similar to his father, but on closer inspection he does have mainly Cora’s features. The nose, however, is clearly Zane’s.

Daniel, always the popular guy, often hangs out with his friends after school, and tonight is no different.

The close-knit group of friends from school consists of three guys and three girls and they often go out for coffee and hot chocolate.

The beefcake is Colten, a self-assured guy with a tendency to brag. He and Daniel are best friends and work out together. Behind him is the equally blonde Lydia, who just so happens to be the daughter of Cora’s colleague Elsa. Lydia refuses to talk about her mother after she left to live with Payton, though.

There’s also Deon, the closeted environmentalist, and Maliyah, who spends most of her time sending Deon longing looks while pretending she’s not interested at all.

Finally, there’s Kailani. She’s very cool and confident, and would be the obvious leader of the group if it wasn’t for Daniel’s magnetic personality.

Daniel and Kailani always joke around in a somewhat flirty way, but both insist there’s nothing between them.

Especially when Lydia is around, because she has a huge crush on Daniel, which is very much a secret, and so of course everyone knows.

The evening is winding down, and the teenagers are debating whether to go home or stay a little longer.

Suddenly, Daniel gets up and stares across the café, looking confused.

“Hey, Danny? What’s up, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

“Danny? Are you OK?”

Chapter 17

All Good Things…

Luckily for Cora and Zane, the very first IVF treatment is a success.

Zane is thrilled with the news, scoops Cora into his arms and swings her around the kitchen when he comes home from work, almost knocking over the fruit bowl.

“This is it, honey. There’s no backing out – or changing your mind again.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Cora. But I have been thinking about something…”

He gently puts her down.

“So, since you got to name Daniel on your own, it’s my turn this time, right? So I say Sue if it’s a girl and Lou Paul if it’s a boy.”

“Wait, like loophole? I love you honey, but I will literally kill you if you name our child a lawyer pun.”

“Understandable. We’ll workshop it some more. What about Misty Meanor?”

“Guess what, Daniel! You’re going to be a big brother! And you have no idea what that means, do you?”


“Yeah, I thought so.”

“Good morning, my lean, mean, baby-making machine.”

“First of all, good morning. Second of all, ew.”

“Yeah, that didn’t sound right. Sorry, honey.”

“Just kiss me and get to work, you big dork.”

Meanwhile, Daniel is oblivious to the fact that in 6 months he’ll have to share his family (and his room) with someone else.

“Goodbye son, take care of your mom while I’m at work.”


“Shhhh, honey, I can’t hear if he responds.”


“Zane, have I ever told you that you’re a huge dork?”

“Often, my love. See you tonight.”

“Zane, your phone is going off like crazy, you better get going.”

“Work can wait, I just don’t like leaving you today. Are you sure everything will be fine?”

“Honey, babies aren’t born exactly on their due date. It’s more of a guideline.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“Hey, I’ve tried this before. There are no signs of your son wanting to come out today. And if he does, I’ll call you.”

“Alright. I love you.”

“Hey Zane. Sorry to disturb your probably very important meeting, but you should come home.”

“Yes, right now. And I wouldn’t say ‘I told you so’ to her if I were you.”

And so little Eric arrives, thankfully with no lawyer puns in his name.

Zane is just as immediately and intensely in love with his son as he hoped.

As much as he loves Daniel, this is still different. Zane is particularly excited about the faint red wisps of hair on Eric’s head.

“Daniel! Come on, buddy, I’ve got someone you need to meet!”

“Promise daddy that you’ll help take care of your brother, alright?”

Luckily, Daniel is excited about the baby, and not too jealous. Although he is slightly disappointed that Eric can’t play with him yet.

Don is going out for once. When he arrives at the restaurant, he is surprised to see Jodi as host.

“Oh no, it’s you. Your… date is waiting. And don’t tell anyone I work here.”

“Sure, Jodi… Say hi to your mother for me.”

Luna, my dear, you are as radiant as the first time I saw you.

“Don, smooth as always. Unlike me. Literally. The last 30 years have taken their toll.”

“I was very sorry to hear about your husband.”

“Hey, we had 25 good years. I was sorry to hear about Alex too.”

“So what are you up to these days? No grandkids yet?”

“Oh, I should hope not, my daughter Amy is still a teenager.”

The food arrives, and Luna and Don spend a few hours catching up.

“Don, it was lovely to see you again. Do… do you want to come back to my place?”

“I’m sorry, Luna. I’m not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. But it was great to see you.”

Cora is back at work after having Eric, and the entire lab has been moved to a new, bigger facility with better security.

Cora is still stubbornly working on rocket upgrades. Surely it should be possible to get to Sixam in less than 7 months. Or at least in a smaller ship.

Payton, no longer her supervisor but her equal, tries talking her into doing other things.

“You never know, Cora. Inspiration could come from anywhere.”

“And me planting this has nothing to do with your bad knee?”

“That’s just a bonus.”

She also spends a lot of time experimenting with new and more efficient fuels, but she makes little progress.

Some of her co-workers are a little worried. Why does Cora act like she’s running out of time?

She almost seems like she has some sort of deadline coming up.

The next few years fly by. Daniel starts school, and with two workaholic parents, he becomes especially close to his grandfather.

Grandpa Don always has time to help with homework, although Daniel is a smart kid and barely needs help.

Don is also good for a hug and a confidence boost if the other kids are mean. Most of the other kids at school have gotten used to the way Daniel looks by now, but it was a tough start.

Eric has started walking, and to Zane’s utter delight, he has inherited both his red hair and green eyes, although Don jokes that the green eyes are his, and just skipped a generation.

Don is always ready with milk and a cookie after school so the boys have someone to spend time with, even if their parents are rarely home until dinner time.

“Easy there, Daniel. I’m not as strong as I once was.”

“But you were the strongest in the whole world!”

“Come on, Eric, get into bed. We can read or we can dance, but we can’t do both. Look at Daniel, he’s already in bed.”

“Boof! Boof boof!”

“No, no dog book, it’s the dino book today. We read the dog book yesterday. And the day before.”


And so the boys sleep, blissfully unaware of what is about to happen.

In the early morning hours, Don stumbles out of bed. She was there, in his dream, kissing him like she used to do, taking his breath away. He can still feel her lips on his.

“Alex”, he whispers breathlessly as he collapses on the floor.

And then he’s gone.

Chapter 16

Second Chances

Cora and Zane waste no time in getting married. The wedding is planned in a matter of weeks.

It seems to Don that is isn’t that long ago he stood in this church with Alex. It’s hard to believe that both his little girls are married now.

“Don’t you dare grow up too quickly”, he whispers and hugs Daniel tight.

Brie is also emotional. Both of her parents are now gone, with Johnny dying only a few months ago. At least Alex got to see Cora return, even if she won’t see her married.

In the back of the church, on Zane’s side of the isle, Layla and Aidan are showing their support. Layla is expecting their second child and is happily chatting to their old university friend Conor, who was on Cora’s football team. Conor is seated next to Zane’s sister Isabelle.

Zane’s father, Wolfgang, is struggling with some mixed emotions. He wants his son to be happy, but marrying into Don’s family wouldn’t have been his first choice for Zane.

As the ceremony finishes, Daniel squirms out of his seat and runs to his parents.

Zane and Cora scoop him into a hug.

Even grumpy Wolfgang can’t help but smile at the happiness radiating from the trio.

Outside the church, Morgan finds Don.

“Don, have you ever met my daughter, Isabelle?”

“Isabelle. You are certainly the spitting image of your mother. Just as beautiful”, Don replies, and gallantly kisses her hand.

“Mom, you didn’t tell me Don was such a gentleman.”

“There are many things I have’t told you, dear.”

“Mom, Isa, I see you have managed to corner my new father-in-law but I need you all to join us for a few speeches.”

During the speeches and toasts, Isabelle gets tipsy and starts trying to grill Don about his personal life. Morgan barely manages to steer the conversation away from her and Don’s past.

As Wolfgang passes the table where Don is talking to his wife and daughter, he shoots Don an angry glare.

Zane also joins the table. Wolfgang is so focused on Don that he even ignores Payton’s attempts at congratulating him on his son’s wedding. After a while, Don retreats to a quiet corner to get away from the awkward situation.

It doesn’t take long before Isabelle finds him.

“Heeeey Don… mom didn’t tell me how handsome you were, you know…”

“Isabelle, please. I think you’ve had enough champagne.”

“No no, I’m fine. C’mon, gimme a kiss…”


A furious Wolfgang storms up to them as Isabelle quickly climbs off Don’s lap.

“I knew it! Keep your hands off her, you sleazy bastard!”

“Wolfgang, I haven’t done anything to Isabelle, and I’m not going to…”

“Do you think I’m blind? I know your tricks! I know what kind of man you are!”

“And what kind of man am I, Wolfgang?”

“Dad – no!”

The punch barely fazes Don. Wolfgang himself actually seems surprised at what he just did.

“Don… I didn’t mean… I just…”

Luckily for Wolfgang, Don, former world champion bodybuilder, simply walks away.

Zane pulls his father aside.

“Dad… how could you? I asked you not to make a scene.”

“Son, you don’t understand. That man has no morals. I know him. Something happened years ago… your mother…”

“Dad, if I recall correctly, you had walked out on us. According to mom, Don was the one encouraging her to give you another chance when you came back.”

“She was still my wife! I… he… he had no right…”

“Dad, you need to get it together. I know you don’t like Don, but he’s my father-in-law and you can’t just go around punching people in the face.”

“Take mom and Isa home. And find a way to deal with your issues that doesn’t involve hitting anyone.”

“Our little baby girl got married today, babe. You should have seen her. Beautiful. Zane is a good man, you were right about them. He’ll make her happy.”

“Daniel is such a great kid. So smart too, just like Cora. And Brie is expecting your third grandchild. Third! You can be proud, babe. Your family is doing well. And I… I still miss you every single day.”

The old house in Willow Creek is too small and too full of memories of Alex, so Don agrees to move to Newcrest with Cora and Zane. Zane has also sold his apartment in San Myshuno.

Cora is working late tonight, but Zane appreciates the extra bonding time with Daniel.

When it’s time for bed, Daniel insists on having grandpa Don read him a story.

Grandpa Don always does the best voices.

A few weeks later, Don is up late, enjoying the silence, and a cup of tea in his “world best grandpa” mug.

His thoughts are disturbed by the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and Zane appears.

“You still up? Mind if I join?”

“Sure, go ahead. Can’t sleep?”

“No, I’ve been tossing and turning for over an hour. I guess I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow.”

“What’s the succes rate for each IVF treatment? Something like 50%, right?”

“Something like that. And I shouldn’t be nervous, Cora is the one having the procedure. And we won’t even know if it has worked for weeks. It just feels… big, you know?”

“Zane, it’s understandable that you’re nervous. You never expected to have kids, right? And I know you love Daniel, but this will still be different.”

“How did you do it, Don? It wasn’t until Cora told me that I even realised that Brielle wasn’t your daughter. To me, you always seemed to be her dad. I don’t want Daniel to feel left out when we have another baby.”

“You’ll do fine. Honestly, what I did was simply deciding that Brie was my daughter. Sure, Johnny’s genetics were involved, and he did visit and spend time with her, but a child can have more than one dad, right?”

“From what I’ve seen, you already treat Daniel like he’s yours. And you don’t even have some guy with his genetics dropping by constantly to remind you.”

“I guess you’re right, but… Daniel is literally blue. It’s not like I can forget he’s not mine.”

“Zane, Brie literally has her father’s face. I was constantly reminded. The point is, it doesn’t matter. I was also Brie’s father. I never treated the girls differently.”

“You’re right. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just promise to hit me over the head if I ever neglect Daniel.”

“Zane, you know I don’t hit people.”

“I know, I was joking. But honestly. I kinda wish you’d punched my dad back at the wedding.”

“Yeah, that was a mess. I’m sorry about all the drama.”

“You’re sorry? My dad should be sorry. That reminds me, Isa actually asked me to apologise to you. I think she’s too embarrassed to contact you directly.”

“I hope she laid off the champagne after I left.”

“Actually, our friend Conor ended up taking her home. I think they’re still seeing each other.”

“Anyway, thanks for talking me through this, Don. I better try to get some sleep so I can be there for Cora tomorrow.”

“Sure thing. Daniel and I will be crossing our fingers at home.”

“Good luck tomorrow.”

Chapter 15

The Perfect Mate

A few weeks after her return, Cora goes into labour.

The family welcomes little Daniel. Everyone but Cora is slightly surprised about the way he looks – despite being warned. But they get used to it quickly.

Alex, who has (supposedly) retired from her life of crime, has embraced being a full-time grandmother, and spends her evenings knitting stuff for baby Daniel and for Brie’s son Jaxen.

Why can’t I hold all this baby?

Grandpa Don is ecstatic about having a baby in the house again, and dotes on little Daniel.

Aunt Brie stops by to meet Daniel as well, and announces that her and Shawn are already considering a second child.

Zane also comes to meet the new family member. Alex shoots Don a meaningful look when he sits back down after letting a slightly flustered Zane in.

“Nice young man, that Zane. And handsome.”

“Zane… I don’t want you to be too shocked, but… he looks a bit special – like his father.”

Zane looks a the little blue baby, unsure of what to do or say. He was never good with children, always felt uncomfortable around them. But this is Cora’s child. What is he so afraid of?

“Do you want to hold him?”

“I… uh, better not. I don’t want to drop him”, Zane mumbles. Cora can’t quite read the emotion in his face. Shortly after he excuses himself with an important case he needs to work on and leaves.

With Don and Alex at home, it doesn’t take long for Cora to return to work. Luckily, her old job is excited to have her back, and she is excited to share everything she learned from the Sixams.

Of course, things are slightly awkward in the beginning, as not everyone quite believes her story, but it’s hard to argue with the results that her new knowledge provides.

Cora also gets updated on the office drama. Her colleague Elsa thought she was too old to have more kids, but suddenly found herself pregnant and gave birth to a little girl – with black hair. Her very blonde husband Lucas was not impressed. A paternity test and two divorces later, Elsa and Cora’s supervisor Payton now live in a San Myshuno apartment with their baby daughter.

A few weeks later Zane drops by again, and this time Cora convinces him to hold the baby.

“Hi Daniel… Cora, are you sure? He’s so small… What if I hurt him somehow?”

Cora laughs.

“You won’t hurt him. Because if you do, I’ll have to sue you, and I promise to use your competitor.”

“I told you, I don’t do that kind of law, Cora.” Zane smiles as he gingerly picks up the baby.

Zane looks into Daniel’s dark eyes, so unlike Cora’s and yet so similar, and is struck by an entirely new feeling. As he marvels at the little fingers trying to grab his tie, Zane feels a sense of protectiveness wash over him, like he would do anything for this child. Cora’s child.

“See, I told you it would be fine!” Cora says, and Zane snaps back to reality.

“Yeah… fine.” Zane puts Daniel down gently, surprised at how empty his arms suddenly feel.

Nothing lasts forever, and one evening Alex collapses in the kitchen.

Don is immediately by her side.

“Alex… babe please, don’t leave me… I love you.”

The funeral is a somber affair. Alex is put to rest outside the church she married Don in.

Don is crying his eyes out over the loss of his soulmate. Cora and Brie are also devastated.

Zane has shown up to pay his respects. He has known the entire family since he was a teenager, after all. And he wants to be there for Cora more than anything.

“I miss her so much. I still can’t believe she’s gone.”

“Me neither, Cora. Your mother was an amazing woman. She always made me feel welcome.”

“You’re a true friend, Zane. Thank you for being here.”

“I’ll always be there for you, Cora.”

Months pass, and Don deals with his grief by punching things and throwing himself back into a strict fitness regimen to keep himself occupied.

He also offers to mentor Zane, who wants to get in better shape. As a lawyer, he spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer or in court. Zane comes by in the early morning before work.

Daniel always yells “Tsane!” whenever he sees him, and Zane is happy to play with him.

After an early morning training session with Don, Zane and Cora is saying goodbye by the door.

“So, Cora, I was wondering. Have you ever tried bowling?”

“Bowling? No, there wasn’t much of that in space. And now I’m too busy with work and Daniel.”

“Well, I think you need to get out of the house. How about you leave Daniel with Don, and I teach you the basics? I can pick you up at eight tonight?”

“Sure. See you tonight.”

Sandy Run Bowling is pretty full by the time they arrive, but luckily most people flock to the bar.

“I didn’t even know blacklight bowling was a thing. And it’s so weird not to have to constantly make sure Daniel isn’t getting into trouble.”

“Cora, you’re ahead by like 20 points, I thought you said you’d never bowled!”

“Thank you for not being a sore loser, Zane. Let’s get a drink before we leave.”

“I’m glad you invited me out, Zane. I really needed this. I had fun.”

“Always a pleasure.”

Before he can change his mind, Zane steps forward and kisses her.

Cora kisses him back for the briefest of seconds before suddenly pushing him away.

“Zane, no, I.. no. We can’t. I should go.”

“Cora, please… I’m sorry…”

“I’ll get a taxi. Goodnight, Zane.”


For a few days, Cora ignores Zane’s texts and calls.

Don is annoyed with her.

“Cora, I see you two all the time. You’re perfect together, why don’t you give it a chance?”

“It wouldn’t work, dad. Please stay out of this.”

“I just want you to be happy, baby girl.”

A few days after the bowling fiasco, Zane is at the door.

“Cora, we need to talk about this. You haven’t been answering my calls. Or my texts.”

“Why did you kiss me? Do you have any idea how much pain you’re causing me? How dare you!”

“Pain? I would never want to cause you pain. What are you talking about?”

“Because I love you, Zane. But it would never work. I want more children. And you famously don’t.”

For a moment, Zane simply stares at Cora as tears well up in her eyes.

“Cora, I… why didn’t you talk to me about this? I do want kids. Every time I see Daniel I wish he was mine.”

“What? But – but you don’t want kids! You and Layla broke up over this! You never wanted kids!”

“I changed my mind.”

“But you can’t even have kids, you told me yourself…”

“Cora, you’re a scientist. Surely you know there are ways around that. We’ll figure it out.”


“If you want me.”

For a moment, Cora looks into Zane’s eyes, as if trying to find a trace of doubt – or deceit.

Then she kisses him.

Chapter 14

Remember Me

Cora lies in bed, too distraught to hear the door open behind her.

Andaela walks in.

“Cora. We need to talk.”

“Cora, listen to me. Tomnu is readying a small ship for you. He will take you home, tonight.”

“Home? But why? I thought… the Council of Elders… There’s something I need to tell Andeux…”

“Relax, Cora. I know about the child. The Council won’t budge. But they would never kill you now, you are carrying a child of Sixam. Andeux’s father is on the Council. He will not listen to me about resuming relations with Earth, but he will also not kill his own grandchild.”

“Does Andeux also know about the baby?”

“Not yet. I will tell my son later. But he will take his father’s seat on the Council in a few years. Tacah was promised to him when they were younger so he would have ‘pure’ children. Andeux will undo some of his father’s hateful policies, but he can only do so much.”

“You need to go home and raise this child. For Sixam’s sake. And when the child is of age, you must send it back to us, somehow. As his first-born, your child will take over Andeux’s Council seat one day. Having a hybrid on the Council will change Sixam’s politics forever.”

“But until then, you and the child will be safer on Earth. That will keep you both hidden until the time is right.”

“Andaela, I don’t know what to do… I’m scared.”

“Just promise that you will get my grandchild back to us some day.”

“I will, Andaela. And thank you.”

“Now go, Tomnu is waiting.”

“Tomnu, are you sure you want to go? You’ll be gone for over a year, and the entire way back you’ll be alone on the ship.”

“Of course, Cora. We want you to get home. And your child is very important to us all. Besides, if I’m not here, I won’t have to worry about keeping things secret from Tacah until you’re safely back on Earth. By the time I return, they will know.”

The confines of a tiny ship combined with pregnancy hormones make for some tough months.

Luckily, Tomnu is patient and good-natured, and always manages to deflect Cora’s bad moods.

They spend time talking about each other’s lives, and Tomnu teaches Cora a lot about Sixam culture. He also tells her about his friends on Sixam, his family, even a girl he secretly likes.

Sometimes, Cora despairs about going home. She hasn’t seen her family and friends for so long. How will they react to her? To the child? Nothing will be the same as before she left.

Luckily, Tomnu is always ready to be a shoulder to cry on.

“Thank you, Tomnu. You’re the best friend I ever had.”

“You’re just saying that because I’m the only one here,” Tomnu smiles.

“No, I mean it. I’ve only ever had one true friend on Earth, Zane. And then my… boyfriend, Aidan, but I fear he won’t be thrilled to see me, not like this.”

Finally, they arrive at Earth.

“Time to say goodbye to Uncle Tomnu, baby.”

“Bye bye, little one. I can’t wait to properly meet you one day.”

“I’ll miss you, Cora. I hope we meet again as well.”

“I’m sure we will, my friend.”

Under the cover of darkness, Tomnu sets Cora down in a park in Willow Creek. It’s still early morning by the time she has walked to her parent’s house. Hesitantly, she knocks.

It doesn’t take long before she sees her mother through the glass. At first, Alex looks in shock, but then she rips the door open while calling for Don.

Cora is welcomed back with much hugging and crying.

Many hours are spent catching up. Alex and Don wants to know everything.

There is much they don’t understand, but they’re so happy to have their daughter back.

Cora is also updated on the family. Brie and Shawn had a boy and named him Jaxen.

The practicalities must be sorted out. Cora has been declared missing and all her things are in storage. There is much to be done.

Last but not least, there’s the future of the baby. It’s quickly agreed that Cora will live at home for a while, at least until she gets back on her feet and everything is sorted out. Brie’s old room is still a guest room.

“Thanks for the sweater, dad. I can’t fit a lot of mom’s clothes like this. Good thing these yoga pants are so stretchy.”

“I’m so happy you’re home, baby girl. We’ll get you some proper clothes soon. But you better finish up, I think Zane has arrived.”

“Zane? He’s here?” Cora runs to the living room.

Zane immediately takes Cora into his arms and kisses her forehead.

“Zane! It’s so good to see you!”

Zane is not letting go.

“I thought… we all thought we’d never see you again,” he mumbles.

“I know. I feared the same. I’m glad you’re here… what about Aidan?”

“Aidan is… I’m here to take you to see him. I’ll update you in the car.”

After being dropped off, Cora is standing in front of the apartment door in San Myshuno, afraid to knock. Zane’s words from the car ride are still ringing in her head. But she has to do this.

She knocks.

Aidan immediately opens, almost like he has been waiting by the door. For a few seconds he just stares at Cora like he’s seeing a ghost.

“Aidan… hi. It’s me. I…”

Cora’s voice falters. Aidan stares like he is in a trance. Then he pulls himself together.

“Cora… Zane warned… told me you were back.”

“Please, come in, let’s talk.”

The first thing Cora notices is the picture wall. Zane warned her in the car, but still. It’s different to see it with her own eyes.

“You’ve… been busy…”

Cora can barely get the words out.

Busy?!” There’s a rough edge to Aidan’s voice. “Busy? Are you being serious right now? You disappeared, you… I was investigated for murder. Can you even imagine?”

“Aidan, I…”

“There were headlines, Cora. ‘Unhinged sci-fi author claims girlfriend was taken by aliens‘. Can you imagine what I went through?”

“Not only was I heartbroken that you were gone, terrified that you might be dead or never come back, but on top of it all, people treated me like I was insane or a murderer. Thankfully, your parents believed me. And Zane, and, yes, Layla.”

“I see. How lucky that Layla could be there for you the second I was gone. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, you’ve always been…close.”

“Cora, you just showed up pregnant on my doorstep, how can you act like I’m the only one at fault here? Yes, Layla helped me through it, but your absence also made me realise how badly matched you and I were in the first place. I loved you, but you were so… difficult. With Layla, everything seems simple. She makes me happy and I don’t have to fight for her attention.”

“It’s been two years, Cora. We… I insisted we waited a full year, as if the aliens were going to bring you back on some sort of messed up anniversary. I even asked your parents for forgiveness for moving on. What would you have me do?”

“I don’t know… But I guess you’re right, maybe I was a pretty terrible girlfriend. I guess we got together by accident and then just… went along with it.”

“I’m glad you’re back safe, Cora. I’m sorry. Maybe – maybe we can be friends again one day, but right now… I need to focus on my wife and son.”

“I get it. I’m sorry too. Bye, Aidan. Say… say hi to Layla for me…”

As Cora leaves the apartment, Zane is waiting for her.

He smiles sadly.

“I figured you’d need a ride after this. And maybe a hug.”

Cora says nothing, just sobs quietly into Zane’s shoulder.

“Come on, I’ll drive you home.”

Chapter 13

A Matter of Perspective

“When I first opened my eyes, I was blinded by a bright light above my head. I had no idea where I was. I immediately panicked.”

“Someone touched my arm, spoke to me in a calming voice. I was shocked when I could see clearly again. The owner of the voice had blue skin. My first thought was that I had finally found the aliens, but I guess technically they had found me.”

“The owner of the voice told me that his name was Andeux. He explained that they had picked me up a few days ago. He apologised for shaving my head, said they had needed to disinfect me and couldn’t risk me bringing any parasites on board.”

“While I recovered from the shock, he went over my vitals, and explained where I was. This was his mother’s ship, The Galaxa.”

“His mother, Andaela, is a high ranking officer on their planet, Sixam. They had been notified of my attempts to reach them, and had been keeping an eye on me in case I managed it. They had orders to ‘eliminate the threat’ if I ever managed to send a signal outside our own galaxy.”

“I was free to explore the ship. Andeux told me that his mother was disobeying a direct order from The Council by bringing me with them – alive. She felt certain that she could convince the Elders to reconnect with humans, if only she could prove that we had valuable knowledge to share.”

“I will admit, I was distraught for weeks. Flying to Sixam takes 7 months. Even if Commander Andaela was successful and I was allowed to not only live, but go home, I would have been gone for so long. I thought of Aidan, my family. Would I ever see them again? Andaela gave me this notebook so I could keep a diary, to help me process everything.”

“I slowly got to know the rest of the crew. Besides Andaela and her son Andeux, there’s also Tomnu, the ship’s giant cuddly teddy bear. He’s the strongest one, exercises constantly – when he isn’t eating. He’s very nice, always cracking jokes and trying to keep everyone happy.”

“And finally there’s Tacah, Tomnu’s sister. She is beautiful, I was almost speechless when I first saw her. She’s also smart and witty. Well, everyone here is a genius, they’re a space crew after all. I must admit, it feels good to be surrounded by fellow scientists.”

“Andaela spends most of her time putting together convincing arguments for my case. I’ve spent entire days telling her about my research and my job at home. She told me that she visited Earth when she was very young, she doesn’t remember much. But she doesn’t agree with The Council.”

“I also try to make myself useful. I have nothing to do on this ship, so to avoid dying of boredom I’m familiarising myself with the ship’s technology, and I’ve even managed to figure out a few upgrades for the sleeping pods. Andaela was thrilled and added it to the list of arguments for my case.

“Even though I try to make the best of it, though, I often get overwhelmed by fear, sadness and homesickness. Sometimes I just look out the windows for hours and wonder if one of the dots is my own sun. I hope to see my family again some day.”

“How do I start writing these entries? ‘Dear Diary’ sounds like I’m 12. Anyways, I haven’t written in a while, a lot has been happening. I’ve grown a little closer to my crew mates. While the Sixams look rather different, they are pretty similar to us.

“Tomnu told me that they used to look even more like us, back in the day. They have two ways of procreating. One is the ‘old-fashioned’ way, the other is by ‘pollinating’ humans. But aliens born from pollination will also have a tiny bit of human DNA and will often grow hair or have interesting eye colours. Many even lack facial ridges.”

“Apparently, Andaela was born from pollination. She was even born on Earth but sent back by her reluctant human ‘parent’. This is also why she has hair, even though she shaves it off. And it’s also why she ended up working in Human Relations.”

“Apparently, Human Relations means ‘Human Avoidance’ these days. Almost three decades ago, the Council of Elders decided to end all human/Sixam contact. All Sixams were brought back to the planet. The pollinated Sixams, like Andaela, shaved their heads to better fit in. Tomnu was a little surprised to see my hair growing out. He’s too young to have met anyone who wasn’t bald.”

“Tacah is a little older than her brother and claims that their grandmother used to have bright blue hair before she shaved it off when Tomnu was very little. I would have loved to see that.”

“Andeux is the same age as Tacah, I think. He says Andaela’s hair was black, back when she had any. But he was also very young when The Council decided to eradicate all human influences.

“As Security Officer, Tomnu spends a lot of time exercising and has recently taken to doing push-ups nearby whenever I write. I can’t help but wonder if he’s trying to impress me.”

“But while I do find Tomnu attractive – anyone would – he’s not the one I’m interested in…”

“I’ve started seeing a lot more of Andeux. We meet often, in secret, in one of the storage rooms.”

“A few weeks ago, I was helping him clean up in here. And then things just… happened. And it keeps happening. The first few times, I couldn’t help but think of Aidan afterwards and feel guilty.”

“But Andeux is very good at distracting me. And I don’t even know if I will ever see Aidan again.”

“I’m sure Aidan wouldn’t want me to feel too lonely. At least that’s what I tell myself… every time.”

Last night, Andeux told me that we are refuelling at one of Sixam’s early colonies tomorrow, before continuing to Sixam. I can’t wait to get out of this ship. I wonder what the colony looks like.”

“It’s so good to be outside the ship! Everything here is so… well, alien. Andaela found a camera for me, I have been taking pictures of everything.”

“I saw a blue planet in the distance, and asked Tomnu if it was Sixam. But he told me that it’s just a moon, one covered with mostly water. Sixam is still pretty far away.”

“Andaela caught up on communications and let The Council know that she had an important case to bring up when we arrive on Sixam. I don’t think she told them about me yet, though.”

“I spent some time wandering around in the area, taking a lot of pictures. I hope I’ll be able to show them to everyone back home some day, and tell them about my time here.”

“There wasn’t a lot of people at the fuel station, it seemed pretty empty apart from a few Sixam staff members, but behind the station I found a little bar, occupied by a man – a human man.”

“I talked to him, and found out that he was in fact the old owner of The Sandtrap in Oasis Springs. I explained that my mother had told me about him. He was happy to hear that she has done well.”

“I asked him why he was here. He told me that he’d fallen in love and married a Sixam who used to come to his bar. But when The Council ended human/Sixam relations, he had been sent here with his wife and son.”

“He told me that their son is a hybrid – neither human nor Sixam. His family was no longer welcome on Sixam, and he knew too much to be allowed to return to Earth. So now they were here.”

“When he left, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when we arrived at Sixam. Would I be allowed to live, only to be exiled here?”

“There is only one way to find out. We’re setting out for the bright star that is Sixam.”

“We’ve arrived at Sixam. I now see why the Sixams prefer Oasis Springs. Sixam is a desert planet. After the shiny white insides of the ship, the earthy tones were a bit of a surprise.”

“It was also slightly weird to finally see the others in something that wasn’t space suits or sleepwear. Most of their clothing is light colours and fabrics because of the harsh sun.”

“It took me a while to learn how to find my way around. At least half the living complex is underground, full of tunnels, almost like a warren.”

“The complex also has a huge garden. Tomnu told me that they’ve had people take care of it while they were away. Apparently, the garden is Andaela’s pride and has plants from many planets.”

“It’s nice to sleep in a real bed after so many months in the sleeping pod. Andeux told me this used to be his room, but he would be moving to a pod so I could have this, for now.”

“It’s all for show, though. We both know that he will be sleeping here as well.”

“I don’t know what to do. One night, soon after our arrival on Sixam, Andeux told me that we had to stop this. He told me that his mother is making some progress with The Council and I might be able to go home. He said he has ‘obligations’ here. I was crushed.

“I moped around for days, not knowing what to do. I tried doing research or reading, but then…”

“I have been suspicious for a while, but I am now certain. I’m pregnant.”

“But when I went to find Andeux yesterday so I could tell him, I saw him in what seemed like a very intimate conversation. With Tacah.”

“He and Tacah were oblivious to me, caught up in each other. I could barely hear their voices.”

“Tacah was surprised that Andeux had apparently changed his mind about something, at first I didn’t catch what it was.”

“But then he talked about some kind of promise he had made in the past.”

“Tacah seemed slightly hesitant, but happy, like she couldn’t quite believe it. She took his hand, and my mind was reeling. Had they been together once? Or maybe even engaged?”

“It didn’t matter. I assume that some kind of agreement had been made, maybe a long time ago.”

“When I saw him kiss her hand, it was clear that they belonged together.”

“I just stared at them for a moment, tears welling up in my eyes. Then I ran.”

Chapter 12

Where Silence Has Lease

Spring has arrived and Aidan has good news.

“Cora! My publisher just called, my latest novel has been nominated for an award!”

“That’s great news, sweetie! We should celebrate when I get home from work tonight.”

While Cora is at work, Aidan gets a call.

“Zane, hey! What’s up, we haven’t heard from you in weeks? Zane? Zane, what’s wrong? Are you drunk? But it’s like noon! Where? Yeah… of course, I can be there in an hour. Hang in there, man.”

Meanwhile at work, Cora has a major breakthrough. She has finally figured out how to extend the range of the satellites.

She was going to tell her supervisor, but he seems… busy.

So instead, Cora installs the upgrade in the satellite herself, and takes it outside for a test run.

All there’s left to do now is wait for a response.

As Aidan arrives at the Freezer Bunny Club, the bartender immediately points him to Zane, who is slumped over the bar.

“Zane? Hey, buddy, I’m here.”

“Aidan? Layla’s gone. She left me, man.”

“Dude, you look like shit. What happened? Did you guys break up?”

“It’s done. We’re over. She lied to me.”

“We’ve been fighting a lot, lately. It seemed like no matter what I did, Layla was just getting more and more unhappy. Finally, I got fed up and demanded to know what her problem was.”

“She told me that she wanted kids. I think I could have handled anything but that.”

“She explained that she thought she would be fine with us never having children, but lately she had realised that it was something she wanted. Needed.”

“She admitted that she had been hoping to get pregnant by accident. Or that I would change my mind. But as time went on, she became desperate. So she secretly stopped taking her birth control a few months ago, but nothing had happened, not yet.”

“I was completely stunned.”

“That’s when I told her that I had a vasectomy. Years ago, before we even met. Because I didn’t want to risk ever having kids.”

“She got really angry with me. Yelled at me for never telling her that I was sterile.”

“I told her that I have always been up front about never wanting children. Whether I was physically able to actually have them or not was completely irrelevant.”

“But she still felt like I had been lying to her. That’s when I really lost it.”

“I yelled at her for trying to get pregnant without my knowledge or consent. I think I called her every bad name I could think of.”

“Then I just… broke. She tried to talk me down and apologised. For everything.”

“Finally, we ended up trying to make up, but something had changed between us.”

“So we decided to end things, right then and there. She moved out the next day.”

“My life’s over, man. What do I do now? How can I ever trust anyone again?”

“Zane, listen. That’s really shitty of her. You didn’t deserve that.”

“But this doesn’t mean your life is over.”

“Zane, pull yourself together. Think of your family, your career. Your future. Get up, I’ll take you home.”

“Come on. We can’t have San Myshuno’s best lawyer out of commission. Who will then help all those rich people through their divorces?”

When Cora comes home, Aidan tells her about Zane and Layla.

“… and then I walked him back to his apartment and put him to bed. I also called his sister and asked her to keep an eye on him for a few days, she lives in San Myshuno as well.”

“It’s so sad. I hope he’ll be okay. And Layla too.”

“Yeah, the whole thing really made me think. Do you still want kids? I do. But I guess we should make sure we haven’t changed our minds.”

“Yeah… I do want kids. But I would prefer to get married first, and I have been waiting since Winterfest for you to pull that ring out of your pocket.”

“Cora! You… you know about the ring?”

“You forgot it in your suit. I’ve tried to pretend I didn’t suspect anything… but I am honestly getting a bit impatient.”

Aidan bursts out laughing. “And here I was so nervous about it!”

“Oh, and I told my parents about finding the ring. Dad then told me you actually asked for his permission.”

“Honestly, you’re such a dork. I should really say no on principle! Just because you asked dad.”

Aidan is laughing too hard to respond.

“Oh, Cora.” Aidan wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes. “I’m sorry that I’ve apparently left you hanging for so long.”

“So, as you have apparently known all along, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you…”

They’re both startled when a loud noise can be heard outside. Immediately, the power goes out.

The trailer is completely dark. A faint humming can be heard outside.

“Oh well,” Aidan jokes, “I guess we’ll have to postpone this?”

Cora giggles.

“I’ll go check the transformer. You’re not getting out of it this easily.”

“Hurry up before I change my mind!” Aidan calls after her.

As Cora reaches the dim sidewalk, a beam of light suddenly illuminates her.

“Uhm, Aidan?”

Aidan, come quick!


Aidan comes outside just in time to see Cora shoot upwards in a beam of light.


The humming fades and the power comes back on just as Aidan runs outside.

Cora is gone.


Chapter 11

Coming of Age

Cora and Aidan managed to save up enough money for a small trailer in Oasis Springs. It’s close to the lab where Cora wants to work, and Aidan doesn’t mind – he has found his calling in writing sci-fi novels and Cora’s obsession with space and aliens is good inspiration.

The trailer is tiny, but they manage. Cora is starting her new job as a scientist soon, and Aidan has managed to gain some recognition for one of his first books.

“I didn’t realise Oasis Spring would be this hot. I’m melting.”

“Cora, honey – this is a desert. What did you expect?”

“But it’s almost winter, Aidan! It’s only like two months until Winterfest! I knew we wouldn’t get snow here, but this heat is crazy.”

“Hey, enough complaining. This is where you wanted to be! Your dream job is here, you have the best chance to rediscover aliens here, and don’t forget, your favourite writer is here with you!”

“So you believe in me? Do you think I can figure out how to contact the aliens again? No one has seen one for like 20 years!”

“I was honestly hoping you’d latch on to the favourite writer part, but of course I believe in you.”

“I should call mom. She used to tell me about all the aliens she saw when she was homeless, before she met Johnny. Maybe I can get her to remember more details.”

Aidan sighs and goes back to his writing.

“Aidan? You’ve been very quiet all evening…”

“It’s fine.”

“Oh. Okay, honey.”

“Let’s get some sleep, you start your new job tomorrow.”

“I love you, Aidan.”

“I love you too, Cora.”

It’s the first day at the lab. Cora feels slightly intimidated. The compound towers above her. University did very little to prepare her for this.

“Uhm… hi, I’m Cora Duchelli? It’s my first day. Am I even in the right place?”

“Oh, Cora, welcome! Of course, let me buzz for Shayla, she’ll give you the tour.”

Shayla quickly shows up, taking Cora to meet her new co-workers.

She meets one of the senior scientists, Payton. He is going to be her supervisor until she gets settled in.

Another colleague is Elsa. Cora finds her very pleasant, and she also went to Foxbury when she was younger

Cora even gets to tinker a bit with the machines before heading home for the day.

“… and then I was having lunch with Payton, and he told me that I’ll be working on improving their satellite tech. They think it’s mainly a range problem, since we know the coordinates of Sixam.”

Every day, Cora works on the inventor, tweaking and improving the satellites. She also learns more about her co-workers.

For example, it’s barely a secret that her supervisor Payton has something going on with Elsa.

And the receptionist is really tired of their shenanigans. Payton and Elsa are both married and have kids. It’s all a little awkward.

Cora gets along pretty well with her supervisor, though, and he is clearly impressed with her skills. It doesn’t take many weeks before Cora gathers up the courage to ask to work on the rocket programme itself.

Payton agrees, he seems to believe that the rocket technology might help inspire a new approach to the satellite system, and gives Cora the needed security clearance.

Cora can’t believe her luck. She begins looking at ways to upgrade the rocket immediately.

Cora suspects Payton only agreed so willingly because it leaves him free to spend time with Elsa.

One evening, Cora comes home late and Aidan is already asleep, so she decides to go visit the local bar, The Sandtrap, alone.

The Sandtrap is right across the street from Cora and Aidan’s trailer, and her mother has told Cora that the previous owner was very nice to her, and often gave her free snacks while she was homeless.

The bar is under new management now, but Cora decides to check it out, meet some locals. Maybe someone knows more about the alien visits.

Unfortunately, most of the bar patrons seem to be too young to know much about the aliens. All Cora gets is some rumours.

It isn’t until the bartender herself joins the conversation that Cora learns that the previous owner actually claimed that he was going to move to Sixam when he retired. People din’t believe him back then, but no one have heard from him since.

Back home, Aidan barely stirs as Cora snuggles up to him.

Cora quickly falls asleep and doesn’t even notice that Aidan wakes up. He lies awake for a while.

The next day at breakfast, Aidan is angry. He doesn’t like that Cora just disappeared last night without saying anything.

“Cora, sometimes I feel like you’re so obsessed with what might be out there that you don’t see what’s right here. You don’t consider my feelings, you’re barely interested in my work.”

“Aidan, do you have any idea how important it would be if I managed to reestablish contact with Sixam? It would be the discovery of the decade! Two decades, in fact!”

Cora angrily storms off and throws herself on the bed. Aidan sighs deeply before he gets up and follows her.

“Cora, I love you. But this relationship could die if you’re too preoccupied to help me keep it alive.”

“I know Aidan. I’m sorry. My work is very important to me, but so are you. I’ll try to do better.”

And for a while, Cora really makes an effort. In the evenings, she remembers to ask Aidan about his day. And she often gives him a massage, as he gets tense from sitting hunched over his laptop all day. Everything seems fine as Winterfest approaches.

Cora and Aidan goes back to visit her parents for Winterfest. Alex insists on a group photo. Shawn fires off a corny joke just as the picture is taken, and Cora is not amused. She always found Shawn a bit brash.

But even with Shawn there, Cora enjoys spending time with her family again. She hasn’t seen them all since Brie and Shawn’s wedding.

Alex spends hours in the kitchen, preparing dinner. She is thrilled to have both of her girls home for the holidays.

“Alex, babe, you’ve done it again. Not only are you gorgeous, you can really cook. Will you marry me?”

“Don, we’ve been married for 25 years, and you know it.” Alex beams and giggles like a school girl.

Cora does notice that Brie seems a little queasy during dinner. But she gives Cora a stern look, and Cora stays quiet about it.

After dinner, Aidan pulls Don aside.

“So, uh, Don. I know this might seem silly, but this is important to me. Do I have your permission to ask Cora to marry me?”

Don laughs.

“Aidan, if I were you, I’d make sure she never finds out that you asked me. If you can convince her to marry you, you’ve earned her. We’ve never been able to make Cora do anything she didn’t want to. But if it’s so important to you, you have my permission of course.”

Later in the evening, Brie also admits to Cora that she is in fact pregnant.

“But it’s very early, so don’t tell mom and Don yet, please!”

They all sing songs and open presents all night.

As the party quiets down, Aidan and Cora get a moment alone in the living room. Aidan nervously fiddles with something in his pocket.

“Cora, I love you very much… I… I hope you know that.”

“I love you too, Aidan. Are you okay? You’re acting a bit strange.”

“It’s nothing.” Aidan takes his hand out of his pocket and takes a deep breath. “I’m just tired.”

Cora goes to say goodbye to her family. As she hugs her mother goodbye, Alex holds her tight for a moment.

“I’m so proud of you, Cora. You’ve been working towards this since you were little. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“I will, mom. Love you.”

And so we will leave Cora waiting for her coffee to brew. See you next chapter!

Chapter 10

The Next Generation

Welcome to the 10th chapter, and the first chapter in our second generation. And also welcome to the new residents in Foxbury student housing!

Cora has gotten into Physics, so she can fulfil her dream of becoming a great scientist.

Her best friend Aidan Martin is studying Language and Literature. He wasn’t able to get into the distinguished degree at Britechester so he’s at Foxbury as well. Aidan’s adoptive parents are Alice Martin and Nina Caliente-Martin. He wants to become a sci-fi author.

Cora’s only other friend and former barista colleague, Zane Fyres-Munch, son of Morgan Fyres and Wolfgang Munch, is also at Foxbury. He wants to become a lawyer.

Cora was the shy nerd in school, but at university, she can finally blossom. Her braces are off, she has good friends, and being brainy is suddenly cool.

She has also managed to introduce Zane and Aidan to each other, and all three of them are getting along great.

“How about this one: How do llamas think the world will end? Llamageddon!”

Okay, maybe Cora will never be truly cool, but at least her friends don’t mind.

Cora needs to stay in shape, as one of her scholarships depends on her being on the football team. Luckily, she has inherited Don’s love of fitness.

Zane is a very neat perfectionist and a stickler for rules, the perfect lawyer, really. But he looks pretty adorable so people underestimate how vicious he can be.

Aidan is a loner, and very into anything sci-fi. He has been making up strange new worlds and writing stories ever since he was a child.

“Dude, could you, like, get out of the way?”

The trio also spends a lot of time in the library, studying and writing term papers. Everything is going great, until…

“Hey Aidan, can I join you guys? My laptop died on me.”

“Oh hey, Layla, of course! Cora, Zane, this is Layla, she has the room next to mine.”

“Thanks Aidan. You three always hang out together, so I never really got a chance to talk to any of you, well, except Aidan.”

“Nice to meet you, Layla. Funny how Aidan hasn’t mentioned you at all. I thought he was too shy to meet new people, but there he goes, making new friends behind our backs.”

“Stop it, Cora! You’re making me sound like an ass.”

“Hey, it’s fine. University is new for all of us. And you must be Zane? Aidan has told me a bit about you both.”

“Has he, now? Did he remember to tell you that Zane wants to be a professional liar?”

“That’s an… interesting choice of occupation, Zane?”

“It’s lawyer, Cora. We can’t all go to space, some of us needs to stay back on Earth and handle rich people’s divorces.”

One afternoon, Cora is standing on the dormitory terrace, looking towards the San Myshuno skyline.

“It would be so cool to live there. I know my mom used to have an apartment there, before she moved to Willow Creek with dad.”

Cora gets her boys and drags them to the Foxbury Commons for dinner. Layla isn’t invited. Cora feels that both of her friends are a bit too interested in the new girl, and she doesn’t like it. And that brings out her bitchy side.

“Cafeteria lobster, Zane? Seriously?”

“Hey, we pay tuition to go here, I’m not settling for a salad!”

“Ignore her, Zane, let’s go play ping pong!”

Aidan and Zane are quickly becoming best friends. Which is probably good, Cora is a bit of a hot-head and sometimes they need to have each other’s back.

Cora gives up on her friends and meets up with her football team instead to practice. She doesn’t need Zane and Aidan, they can go hang out with stupid Layla if they want. Cora has plenty of new friends to hang out with.

I don’t know who this absolute unit is, but I love him.

Back home, Aidan is taking a break from his studies to write another short story. His fish Teddy looks on.

Cora is busy with football. The coach makes the team run laps around campus.

“Yeah, and there’s Stuart, just walking, we’ll never win if he doesn’t pick up the pace!”

It seems like Layla and Zane are getting along a little too well. Aidan isn’t thrilled – he finds Layla quite attractive and would have liked a chance. But he knows he doesn’t have Zane’s easy charm.

Staying outside the library doesn’t help much when the doors are see-though, you guys!

Cora is feeling alone. Her teammates are nice, but they’re not her best friends. She’s not sure why there’s so much tension in their group, but she suspects that it has something to do with Layla.

“Hi Aidan! I’ve missed… I mean, I was just studying, no big deal.. What’s up?”

“Nothing, Cora. I think Zane and Layla are dating, though…”

“Cool, cool. Look, I hurt my arm at practice!”

Another day, another make-out session in the library…

I looked away for a second and then saw the “Zane is about to WooHoo for the first time” pop-up. I guess I had autonomy on for this. And I wasn’t planning on this so Zane had no protection and he hates children…

Eww, guys!? That is a communal shower!

Fun fact: Mr. Stand-in-front-of-TV’s real name is Ulysses.

Layla, I think that guy heard you…

“By the way, Cora, wasn’t Zane gonna join us today?”

“I asked him, but you know what he’s like these days. He only has eyes for Layla.”

“Can’t blame him. I wish I had a girlfriend as well.”

“Aidan… Do you ever wonder, like… what it would be like if we… you know…”

“Honestly, Cora? Yes. But you’re my best friend and I’m afraid I might catch feelings if we ever did.”

“… and would that really be a bad thing?”

I mean, who knows?

“So, Cora… I know this is sudden but do you think you could share a bedroom with me?”

“Yeah, that is sudden… why?”

“Zane and I have been talking about moving away from campus but the apartment he’s looking at only has two bedrooms.”

And so we’ve moved! Zane’s parents are reasonably well off, so with a bit of help from them, and with four people paying rent, there’s just enough money for Zane to get a 2-bedroom apartment in San Myshuno.

Four people? Yes, because Layla is moving in as well. Her and Zane’s relationship has gotten serious. After the pregnancy scare, which luckily turned out to be nothing, they had a serious conversation about their future, especially the fact that Zane hates children.

Cora is happy to have the coffee machine to herself, and Aidan likes having fewer strangers around all the time.

Most of the time, it’s almost like back in the good old days of first semester.

But Layla is also here, and while she’s very nice, Cora isn’t dealing too well with her presence. The girls rarely talk.

To make things worse, Aidan gets along with her very well, and Cora can’t help but wonder if maybe he would have preferred to be with Layla if she hadn’t picked Zane.

“Grrr… Stupid perfect Layla with her beautiful curly hair and her pretty face…”

Poor Aidan. University is already stressful, and now his girlfriend is constantly upset for no real reason. He can’t figure out why.

Aidan’s problem is only made more apparent by Zane and Layla being very happily in love. He loves Cora, but she is… difficult. Sometimes he just wants to disappear into his own fictional world.

“Sorry, Aidan. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I think maybe living with other people is getting to me. We should get our own place after graduation.”

Cora usually gets her way, so Aidan just agrees. He will miss his other friends, though.

Say yes, obviously! It’s about time!

“Zane, don’t take this the wrong way, but I think Aidan and I will be moving out after graduation.”

“I understand. It’s fine, Layla has a full-time job already and I will also be working soon, we can manage the apartment alone. We’ll miss you guys though.”

“Welcome home, honey! I wanted to ask you something. I know it’s a bit soon, but…”

“Will you marry me?”

“And then she said yes and we went to dinner! We’re going to save up for a year or so and then do a destination wedding, maybe Sulani.”

“Grats, man, I’m so happy for you two!”

Cora is getting some sleep after her last football match, because tomorrow is graduation day – but we won’t have time to attend the ceremony, because it’s time to go home…

Noodles! Aww, you’re so old 😩 We won’t be staying for long, though, we have a wedding to go to.

Everyone is here! For some reason, Shawn’s father Duane has chosen to sit in the back with Brie’s half-sister Jodi who is now a teenager.

Johnny has also chosen the back row. Maybe he just doesn’t want people to see him all emotional.

Daddy Don has no such worries and is openly crying.

It’s a beautiful ceremony.

And so Brie is free to change her last name and go live her life outside the influence of the legacy.

Jodi? You can stop throwing rice, your sister and her new husband has left, the wedding is over.

And so is this chapter! Next chapter, our heir Cora and Aidan move into a new home together and get started on their careers, see you then!