Eridah carefully examined the specimen in front of her. It was, of course, a plant. This was a botany exam after all. The big question was, what sort of plant? This being an exam, she had two hours to find out everything she could about it without destroying the entire plant or killing it. The plant wasn’t that big to begin with, smaller than the specimens on most of her classmates’ benches in fact, so she sighed, bent her smoke and violet mottled head with its long ears down and got on with it.
When she walked out of the room just over two hours later, she was almost satisfied with her performance. She hadn’t managed to find the name of the plant in the table references available in the test but she’d described it, the environment it was adapted to and listed its properties. Without the name she wasn’t going to get full marks but she’d done her best. Around her, her brightly coloured fellow students compared their tasks and results: whether their hair, rabbit-like furred ears and long tail were brown, green, blue, purple or something else, they were all almost gem like in their brilliance. Even the white-furred, of whom there were none in this class, had a stronger impact than Eridah’s muted mottle. Her visual impression was one of negative space and although the worst of the harassment for being “other” had peaked in high school, most of her peers still chose to avoid her.
Not everyone did though and she was heading across the atrium towards her group of friends in this class when Professor Miofey, the lecturer for the subject, grabbed her arm and asked, “Eridah, what did you think of the examination?” The orange moustache that matched the colour of his fur quivered as if to emphasise his age as he added much more quietly, “I’m sorry to bother you like this but I’m trying to avoid some people and I hope that if I’m with someone, they’ll leave me alone.”
“That’s alright,” Eridah glanced quickly around the room but couldn’t see who could be bothering the Professor. “I couldn’t find my plant in the references.”
“Oh,” the professor blinked, “that certainly is possible. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it wasn’t there.”
“So maybe I haven’t lost those marks,” Eridah didn’t quite burble.
The professor smiled enigmatically then, looking over Eridah’s shoulder, said, “Ah, here are the people I wanted to meet.”
Eridah turned her head to follow his gaze and saw a white-furred male, dressed in mufti but still obviously a soldier, and a younger, loose limbed, black-furred male wearing expensive casual clothing coming towards them. “Do you want me to leave now, Professor?”
“Oh, no,” he smiled at her, “I see no need for that. It might be useful for you to meet them.”
“Professor.” It was the white-furred male who uttered the greeting as he and his companion both subtly scanned the atrium. “Do you have the report? You sounded a little…stressed when you called.”
“Yes. I think someone’s after me.” The professor reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a crystal drive which he pressed into the white-furred male’s hand. “Here you are, all my findings are in there.” His knees suddenly buckled. “Take Eridah here with you, you’ll need someone like her to interpret it for you.” Blood began to trickle from the corner of his mouth. “I’m afraid they’ve done for me.”
As the professor subsided to the ground, his long orange ears already flopping in death, Eridah saw a celadon green-furred male about five metres behind him, dressed in leather and with a silenced slug pistol in his hand. The pistol was already moving to point at the white furred-male and Kensey, a lemon-yellow fellow student of Eridah’s, was beginning to scream.
The white-furred male grabbed Eridah’s wrist as he dodged. “Come on,” he commanded. “Run.” A slug hit the stairs a few metres behind where he’d been standing. “It’s time for us to get out of here.”
Why She Couldn't Bail Out Straight Away