The sun shone on the Wester Wood; a light breeze brought fresh mountain air to his nostrils. Birds chirped and Timby fumed as he walked along the path toward the pack-school. He spotted the Galactic Herald standing outside the front door, chatting with one of the teachers. It would be strange, Timby thought, talking to someone who might have been dressed up like an eagle, except that he was a white eagle, but much bigger, and with intelligent eyes, a mouth that could speak, and strange grasping fingers on the wings.
After what seemed to be forever, the adults finished their conversation. The teacher went back into the school. Timby steeled himself and took a breath.
The alien bird turned to Timby: a dark-furred woof, male, just graduated pack school and about to go on travels for a few years.
“My name is Timberwoof Lupindo—“
The alien looked closely and opened his mouth to speak, but Timby continued his introduction.
“Cousin of another Timberwoof Lupindo, and we’re both grandsons of the Timberwoof Lupindo, the one you know.”
The alien closed his mouth and looked Timby up and down. Timby tried not to tremble as this alien examined him. His future was at stake.
“Yes, I see and hear the resemblance. Indeed, I recall looking over your file with the selection committee.”
“The selection committee?”
“Some of my staff, your elders, and myself. We selected qualified students to attend the Academy.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
The Herald peered at Timby. “Yes?”
“I think you should consider me to go to the Space Academy.” Timby blurted it out so he wouldn’t be able to change his mind.
“We’ve made our decisions.”
Timby had come this far; he was almost ready to give up. One more try…
“You’re making a mistake … Sir.”
“Oh? You think so?”
Timby thought about how to prove that.
“You need cadets. You need captains and pilots and navigators. We have to be smart and strong … and brave. We have to be the best our planet can offer. Well, that’s me. I’m smart: I scored 98% on the pack-school tests. That means you won’t find many woofs smarter than me. I’m strong: I run and jump and fence with anybody. And I’m brave.”
Timby thought about how he hadn’t been able to prove his bravery to the rest of his pack and tribe at the dance festival. He almost faltered in his speech to the alien, who stood and waited. Timby continued.
“It takes courage to come and talk to an alien—an important person such as yourself. Sir.”
The Herald looked down at Timby. Timby could not read the look on his face, those big golden eyes and that yellow hooked beak. The herald took a breath, perhaps considering his words.
“Journeyman Timberwoof, I have important matters to discuss with your elders and I cannot be disturbed by the likes of you. Return to your home at once. Stay there or there will be serious consequences for your future.”
Timby stared at the tall eagle-alien, not knowing what to say.
The Herald opened his beak as if to speak. Timby said, “Yes, Sir. Sorry to bother you, Sir.”
He turned and walked away, dejected. He hung his tail and drooped his ears. He couldn’t face anybody, not his siblings and cousins. Certainly not Fimbul, who had put him up to this. He took the long way home. The sun couldn’t set soon enough tonight, he thought. But then he’d have to look at the stars. He had just insulted the representative from the galactic civilization, possibly the most important alien on the planet. How would he explain that to his grandfather, who had brought him here, had made all that possible? Timby became a little angry. Angry that he had been passed over like that, angry that his brother had chided him into this foolish confrontation, angry that it had amounted to nothing. The he felt ashamed over his anger. He took some deep breaths and continued on his way.
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