HUMAN/SUPER Higher Learning 244

“Is Carmen coming?” Frederica asked, glancing past Magh.

Magh shook her head.

“She wanted to see if I could make the trip without her assistance,” she said. “My ‘final test,’ she told me.”

“That’s vaguely ominous,”’ Frederica said.

“A little,” Magh said. “She was a good teacher, though. I learned a lot. Orna helped too. She and Teth are doing well, by the way. They say hello.”

“That’s good to hear,” Frederica said. “I really should pay them a visit one of these days.”

“I’m sure they would like that,” Magh said. “Well… Teth would. Orna would act grumpy about it, but secretly would be happy to see you.”

Frederica chuckled.

“Sounds about right.”

She heard murmuring in the crowd and looked to the sky. There, so high it was barely a speck against the blue, was the space shuttle. Sleek and black, it was shaped a bit like a bird, based on alien tech salvaged after the incident several years ago. Frederica was tempted to fly up and get a closer look but she didn’t want to startle anyone at a crucial moment.

The shuttle grew closer and closer. Magh squeezed Frederica’s hand, probably remembering that very same incident, the one that brought her to Earth and nearly destroyed the city. Frederica squeezed back.

The crowd held its collective breath as the shuttle touched down on the runway. Parachutes unfurled behind it, catching the wind. Finally, the shuttle rolled to a stop. Ground crews scurried over to meet it.

After about twenty minutes, the crowd was ushered over to the shuttle. A ramp lowered beneath the craft and the astronauts filed out one by one, reuniting with friends and family and loved ones on the tarmac.

And among them was Nila, her blue-streaked hair blending into her uniform. She spotted Frederica and Magh and started to run toward them, but she tripped after a couple steps. Frederica moved forward at super speed to catch Nila.