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Dimension 12 – The Reyen residence, Rokon City

April 3077. 17:21. Fifteen hours after the arrival.

Kiri and Sage arrived at Sage’s apartment after Kiri had been thoroughly scrutinized and immunized at the hospital. It was well into the afternoon. Kiri looked relieved for the most part. At least she knew for sure that people in this world wouldn’t conduct experiments on en in this world because of alternative anatomy. Although… Huir anatomy didn’t seem to be any different from the humans in this place. Or say—the “marrans.”

Sage parked the car on the roof of the apartment. “Well, sorry for that hassle, friendo. You’re not in any pain, are you?”

Kiri looked breathless. “Ah—no I am well enough.”

“I mean, better than dying randomly, though. Or killing the entire Rokon population.” Sage said as she smirked.

“Correct, I believe.”

“Imagine if you brought some plague here, though. The headlines being like, ‘Alien comes into Sooted Star and kills the entire marran population with killer bacteria.’” Sage laughed heartily.

“They didn’t seem surprised that I’m from another planet.”

Sage nodded. “Right. Though they would’ve been more surprised if you were from a whole new planet. You’re so similar to marrans that they didn’t think you could be from a different planet from the usual five. I guess that’s good, makes them question less.”

Kiri looked panicked. “I—will not be ending up badly hurt later from the vaccines, will I?”

“Badly—ah, no, since your composition is so similar to my species, I doubt you will be affected by the vaccines too much. Unless you came from the other side of your planet or something. Who knows. I’m no biologist.”

“I suppose… It’s so strange how all the planets in the, uh—Sooted Star Realm can all host a life forms.”

“Ah, you’re right about that. But to be fair, a few planets were barely habitable until senergians made them more habitable. And then when technology came along, those people were able to live there, too.”

“Since I am so similar to you… I wonder if people on my planet started off in Sooted Star as well?”

Sage looked thoughtful. “I wouldn’t be surprised, to be honest. Or maybe even the other way around. But we can’t ever be sure unless we were to completely connect with your planet. But before we get into a bigger conversation, let’s go?”

“Ah, of course.”

The two of them exited the car and towards the roof entrance of the apartment that stuck out as a single sheltered door and led down into a staircase.

Kiri looked as though zei had more questions, but Sage’s attention seemed inclined elsewhere. Zei made an effort to keep huir mouth closed and simply follow.

They arrived at one of the doors along the walls of the stairwell. Sage fumbled for huir keys, and soon they were in huir old but nevertheless homely apartment. They had landed in a hallway with dark wooden floors and faded white walls, which led to a few open rooms on either side. Boxes, clothes, and other nick-knacks stood against the walls in a disorganized manner.

A girl who looked 12 years old emerged from one of the rooms. “Sis, did you hear about the new portal that opened up for like, five seconds and then disappeared?”

The kid flinched and stopped in huir tracks when zei spotted Kiri.

Sage was about to reply to the subject at hand but looked back and forth between the kid and Kiri.

“Oh, Kiri, this is my brother, Ileris.” Zei blinked twice. “Well, my sister or sibling, I mean.”

Kiri looked blankly at Ileris, attempting to muster a “hello” or something. When was the last time zei’d even been introduced to someone new?

Ileris wore what Kiri considered feminine clothes—a long lavender sweater that posed as a dress, long gray socks, and a faded pink bow on the side of huir medium-length dreadlocked hair.

Kiri smiled politely. “Nice to meet you, Ileris.”

“And this is my new friend, Kiri,” Sage continued.

Ileris shyly smiled and dimples appeared. It looked quite a bit like Sage’s own smile. “Mmh, nice to meet you.” Zei bowed slightly before quickly disappearing into the next room.

Sage yelled after nem. “Hey, what about this new portal, kid? Where’d they say the portal was?”

“I don’t know!” came neir muffled voice. “They said something about the detector just reads the general patterns in the atmosphere but not where the portal is.”

Sage chuckled. Said to Kiri, “Don’t worry. Zei’s shy around everyone on first meeting. Zei’s 12 after all, you know how it is at that age.”

“Ah. It is alright I think.” Kiri lowered huir voice’s volume. “So… is zei actually your brother, or…?”

Sage laughed awkwardly, realizing zei’d opened up a whole topic for interrogation. Zei sounded a bit jumbled as zei explained, “ah—oh, yeah, about that—well it’s a bit complicated. But yeah, no, born as my brother based on outer attributes, but huir physical insides are kinda—uncommon, to put it simply. Apart from that, though, zei feels more comfortable in the identity of sister or sibling. Zei tells me zei’s pretty chill with it. Like for gender terms.” Zei suddenly tensed up for some reason and averted huir eyes. Zei continued, whispering, “I—you probably didn’t need that whole explanation, though…”

Kiri looked understanding. “Huh, I see. I’m a bit familiar with that,” zei mused. “One of my classmates, when I was at the age of Ileris, was like that. But zei moved away because of bullying, I think.”

Sage side glanced at Kiri. Dropped huir shoulders and laughed shortly as zei did a small bounce on huir heels. “O—oh! Glad to hear there’s some stuff similar in our worlds. I was afraid since honestly, I’m not sure how much to share without it being too much for you. I guess I’m just so used to SSR culture, and other people are, too. We’re pretty accepting, but I forget there’s other places who may not be… you know.” Zei laughed awkwardly.

Kiri laughed, too. “I am okay, I do assure! Well, as long as I don’t have to endure weird experiments… It’s all fine by me.”

Sage scratched the back of huir head and looked much less tense. “Thank goodness, I was afraid I slipped up. Not all strangers are so accepting, and I promised Illy I’d be more careful.” Zei began to ramble at this point. “Anyway, we’re probably not that different. I mean, they didn’t see any anomalies in you. You like, didn’t even have to get vaccinated for things that people on the 3rd planet have to, right, I mean…! Sorry, I’m totally rambling now.” Zei laughed and gestured two emphatic thumbs up. “Point is, I’m glad to help you since you seem like a trustworthy person.”

In an attempt to shirk off the awkwardness, zei excitedly gestured for Kiri to follow en as zei headed to a room that looked like a regular kitchen from Kiri’s own world. “Hey, I’m cooking tonight, so I’ll make extras. Care to help? Might help you feel more a part of this world for now until we get you home.”

Kiri looked relieved. Nodded, then followed Sage to their next little adventure.

~ ~ ~

Author's note: Sage's use of the word "uncommon" in describing Ileris' physiology refers to intersexuality if anyone was wondering. But I didn't want to get into a who tangent about that for the novel's sake.

According to Wikipedia, intersex people are individuals born with any of several sex characteristics including chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals that, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies."

Even though Ileris is, in fact, intersex, due to possessing some typically female characteristics along with male ones, zei was still "assigned male at birth" by the doctors. This has nothing to do with huir gender identity currently; it is something humans (and marrans) may be born with and they may choose their gender identities later in life.

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