It was close to a klick (hour) trip in the hovercraft from the forest reserve they had been filming in back to the campus of Nadowahoc College. However, the time seemed to pass quickly. The three of them studied the footage they had gotten. Aldin pointed out how Giguere’s feet had positioned themselves just like Aldin’s when they faced downward on the tree trunk, allowing their foot claws to hold each of them in place. Giguere noted he didn’t have to think about it much, it just seemed to be the natural thing to do once he relaxed just as Aldin had suggested.
Once they arrived back, they parted ways. Aldin headed off campus to the home he currently shared with his friends, Aouphril and her mate, Orlan. It bothered him in some ways to share space with them. He knew he was welcome. Still, it felt like he was intruding on the young couple. He hated to freeload on them and had offered to help cover some of the expenses through the embassy account, but they refused, insisting he was their guest for as long as he wanted to stay with them.
This was also why he was offering his assistance to Dr. Kaynobble and his research. It was a barter/trade for services-in-kind. Aldin assisted Dr. Kaynobble and in return, Aldin got to work on improving his Common, both spoken and written at the college. As he had quickly discovered shortly after being appointed Ambassador for the Terran Nahmakanta Free Squirrels, he had no way to directly pay for the tutoring without running up a bill for Nahmakanta. The previous Parliament neglected one little thing when they designated him as Ambassador. While he had that “embassy spending account” that would eventually be billed to Nahmakanta should they ever make contact with this Earth, Parliament never settled on whether or not he, as a “visitor,” could legally work as he wasn’t an Earth citizen. As such, he had no personal account in Earth’s computer network. No personal account meant no one could pay him for work he did. This annoyed Aldin as he didn’t want to rely on the embassy spending account. He wanted to pay his own way in his new home. He didn’t believe Nahmakanta would ever make contact with this Earth. As such, he was very careful about when he added to that bill. Thus, the exchange agreement with the college. As convenient as the virtual credit system of this Earth seemed to be, physical hard currency would have come in handy in a case like his. Maybe some future Parliament could be convinced to allow him to “officially” work.
After the short 15 ceklick walk, well, scamper on all four paws as that was more natural for him, Aldin arrived at his shared home. He walked when he had to, which he practiced a lot, but he preferred to be on all four whenever he could get away with it. At the entrance, he placed his forepaw on the lock pad, the light turned green, and allowed him to enter. Neither of his two hosts were home yet as both had late afternoon classes. Aldin got started on dinner. This was one way he helped his hosts despite their refusal for him paying any sort of rent or assist with the household expenses. He did his share of household chores.
Aldin uncovered a bowl and punched down the dough within. He had set the bowl out that morning to let the dough rise. He ignored that for a little bit while working on a simple salad for himself. The salad had just a little bit of greens and a lot of raw vegetables, mushrooms, and nuts. He didn’t add any dressing. He wasn’t a fan of it anymore here than he had been when visiting the Fudd-humans back on his Earth or Terra as he called it here on this other Earth. Never mind his hosts liked a vinegar-based one. And here, the vinegar was a lot stronger/more pungent than what he ever encountered back on Terra.
Aldin turned back to the dough to create something a bit more complicated for his friends as the furry citizens of this world ate food similar to humans back on his Terra. He lightly greased a flat cooking sheet, and turned the dough on to it. He gently kneaded it outward thinning it out as it covered the sheet, bunching it on the edges. He then spread tomato sauce over the dough, shaking his head at the purple color. He just couldn’t yet get over how some vegetables here were so different in color.
On top of this, he grated and sprinkled cheese. It had been a challenge to track some down at first, not knowing what it was called here, nor knowing whether or not they even made the stuff. Apparently, it was made in some regions. It didn’t take him too long after that to find some that was similar to mozzarella back on Terra, but he never asked which domesticated wild cousin animal’s milk was used in the process of making this version. He had bartered for the cheese providing a “meet-and-greet” open house session at the farm that made it. Said session involved a few more over-excited kids then he had planned on, all of whom wanted to hug and pet the “wild cousin” squirrel. The sacrifices he made for his friends.
On top of the cheese, he sprinkled some dried herbs. He then added some sliced mushrooms and sliced rolled, spiced tofu-product that looked sort of like Terran pepperoni, which he knew both his hosts liked in other meals. Done adding toppings, he slipped it into the convection oven for 15 ceklicks. This took a bit of effort as the pan was as large as he was. The smell of baking pizza filled the kitchen as Aldin nibbled on his salad. Just before the timer buzzed, Aouphril and Orlan arrived. Both of their noses twitched at the smell. They had never smelled anything quite like it before.
“Surprise,” Aldin exclaimed as he checked the crust, shook his head, and slipped it back in. “Well, it needs a couple more ceklicks.”
“What is it?”
“Something from Terra, or at least my attempt at it. It is very popular among the humans my people work with. It’s called ‘pizza’, though you may want to come up with a different name for it in Common. Of course, for all I know, pizza is already made somewhere on Earth already.” Aldin described the process. Both were intrigued.
The timer buzzed again. This time, Aldin was happy with the crust, but needed assistance pulling it out. He sliced it up and served them each a slice to start and a smaller one for himself. There wasn’t much human-style food he liked, but he tolerated pizza in small portions. Aldin was pleased with how it came out as he nibbled on his slice. It was well received by his hosts as they made small talk about how their day had gone. There were no leftovers when they were done.
As Orlan did the few dishes, Aouphril noticed the flashing light on the side of the entertainment flat panel indicating a message had been left. This was unusual as all three of them had personal handheld flat panels through which someone could have contacted them. She tapped a passcode on her handheld that signaled through to the entertainment unit.
The screen lit showing the head and shoulders of a brown furred pine marten. It looked about and then directly at the camera. “I hope I have the right place,” she spoke. “I’m trying to contact the Em-bass-ah-der. Please have him return my call as soon as possible through the secured network.” The screen went dark.
Aouphril and Aldin looked at other with puzzlement on their muzzles. She replayed the message as Orlan joined them. She tapped a few icons on her handheld. The entertainment panel displayed:
Call ID: Private
Location: Forestdale, Alisferil Region
“Scat,” Aldin mumbled, drooping his tail.
Both Aouphril and Orlan glanced at him and shook their heads, again, wondering why that was used as a cuss word on Terra.