Myla Harkins tugged her jacket on and stood before the mirror, smoothing down her skirt and preparing herself for what was to come. She was about to make the short hoverbus ride onto campus and the walk down the hall that would carry her into the most important room of her life. There, she would be meeting... well, she didn’t know how to describe him. Ambassador was a broad term. Exchange student didn’t quite cover it. However, through some amount of bargaining, through some strange unwillingness for the government to wish to take a direct hand in this situation, the stranger (that was what everyone at the University was calling him) was coming here. To Elmcrest. Her professor had told her of this a week ago. She’d been given very little time to adjust, to recover from the fact that his appearance would be a great boon for her thesis on alien adjustment to American human culture, and to use her meager budget to buy clothes worthy of meeting an alien of a rather unknown race. The Xyrians. Little was known about them. They weren’t from around these parts and most of the other alien species Myla had encountered knew just as little of them aside from rumors of them being warlike conquerors. But this Xyrian would arrive alone, away from his people, and his request to the governments of the world had been clear: He wished to learn human culture. China and Russia had worried that he was a spy, the United States saw it as an opportunity to show fellowship and brotherhood with the Xyrians, Great Britain had made an irreverent television comedy miniseries and was already in post production of it and in talks for more. Myla knew all of this, had studied all of the reactions to this newcomer who would arrive by private shuttle in less than an hour and forever change the course of history for two species … and two people. Grabbing her briefcase, her handcomp, and her coffee, she headed out the door, making the quick trip to the school and assuring herself that the meeting room in the cultural xenology building was comfortable, welcoming, and that snacks and drinks were set up. Recorders were ready to log the meeting, translators stood by should they be needed, and the halls were cleared of onlookers. From a small office to one side, Myla’s masters committee watched and waited.