Suzanne carefully programmed three camera-drones to take positions around the room.  Doctor Daisy Plumber waited patiently, watching with an amiable expression.  This would be the first time she had used drones to record an interview and she instructed the machines with care, so she would have three angles to choose from when she turned it into a video later.  Not only could she charge for copies, but the attention would build her viewer base.  Most people had not taken it seriously when rumors had spread that some freaky scientist had married an alien, a giant bug, but Suzanne had decided to pursue the story.  She had rented an automated spacecraft and taken the long journey to find Doctor Plumber and she was still a bit loopy from being alone in space.

            Using her palmtop, Suzanne looked through the automated eyes of each drone before activating it.  "Ready when you are Doctor," she said as she took her seat.

            "Ask away," Doctor Plumber said as she sat back and crossed her legs. She was sitting on her couch with an empty seat next to her while Suzanne had taken a simple chair.  They were in Doctor Plumber's makeshift frontier home, in the main room with three doors and several windows.  Outside, the place was surrounded by a garden, a mix of local and terrestrial plants that must have been sustaining the woman. The planet she lived on was a nice one. Very fertile and with its own life that was not so different from the Earthly variety.  Not like the rock Suzanne lived on.  The small human community was just starting out and most had spread out and made homes for themselves in the wilderness, although Suzanne had seen a small town as her craft had landed.  She had taken video of it in the hope that it would be useful. Doctor Plumber herself was a lean and weathered mature lady with her salt and pepper hair tied in a simple braid, wearing a basic, homemade dress over modern blue jeans.  A tough frontier grandma, Suzanne thought.

            "Will your husband be joining us?" Suzanne asked.  She knew he would, but she wanted the answer on camera.

            Doctor Plumber glanced at one of the doors.  "He's down in the tunnels.  He'll come up soon."

            Suzanne smiled formally.  "Tell us about the tunnels," she prompted.

            Doctor Plumber paused.  "My husband's people live underground.  We built a stairway that connects to their tunnels."

            Suzanne addressed the camera-drone focused on her, giving it a knowing look. "So, you are married to an alien?"

            "You could put it that way," Doctor Plumber responded.  "I have become a member of his family.  You see, their family structure is different from ours."  Doctor Plumber shifted slightly and one camera-drone moved.  This pleased Suzanne because she wanted close-ups of the subject's face as she spoke and had programmed the drone accordingly.

            "What is their family like?" Suzanne asked.

            "Um..." Doctor Plumber began.  "Their families are not about reproduction and child rearing, as human families are.  Carrotian families are more about living and working together and providing for each other. Sharing food is especially important."

            "Carrotian?" Suzanne asked.

            Doctor Plumber's eyes twinkled.  "On the way here, someone started calling our destination 'the carrot' and it stuck," she explained.  "It became a silly nickname for our world, planet carrot, and we humans have been calling the people who live here 'Carrotians'."

            "And what do they call themselves?" Suzanne asked.

            "They don't," Doctor Plumber answered.  "Carrotians don't use sound to talk."

            "They can't talk," Suzanne observed.

            "They can and do talk," Suzanne corrected enthusiastically.  "They just don't use sound.  They communicate by touching antennae or something like dancing and sign language if someone is further away."  Doctor Plumber leaned forward with her attention on a device resting on the coffee table in front of her.  She held it up to show the camera and said, "We made this."

            "Tell us about it," Suzanne encouraged.

            Doctor Plumber held up a socket on the end of a cord.  "This goes over his antenna tip and the processor translates his electrochemical signals into words.  This speaker will say them, or he can use it to send e-mail."

            Suzanne eyed the device with skepticism.  "How well does it work?"

            "My husband understands English, so he can use it very well," Doctor Plumber answered.  "It can be confusing when other Carrotians talk into it, but my husband can translate if needed."

            "Was it hard for him to learn a spoken language?" Suzanne asked.

            "He says it was," Doctor Plumber answered with an amused smile. "It did not take him long."  She leaned forward and lowered her voice, although there was nobody else in the room.  "They're smarter than humans."

            Suzanne decided to provoke a reaction.  "Are they?" she asked, pretending to be offended.

            Doctor Plumber grinned.  "Yup!"  She nodded rapidly. "Especially with anything technical.  They learn fast, especially my husband."

            Suzanne decided to push a little more.  "So, we're just dumb humans."

            Doctor Plumber responded with a condescending smile.  "I never said that.  They learn quickly and seem to figure things out almost intuitively.  My husband always knows how anything man-made works as soon as he takes a close look at it."

            "And your husband is superior?" Suzanne quipped.

            "He's never treated me like an inferior," Doctor Plumber responded. "We love each other."

            Suzanne smiled at that.  "How long have you been together," she asked, changing the subject.

            "Twelve of our years," Doctor Plumber answered.  "I don't suppose that will mean much to your audience.  I don't really know."

            Suzanne nodded.  "How did you meet?"

            "When we, a shipload of colonists, arrived here, we did not know that there was another intelligent species on the planet.  Carrotians live underground and we thought we were alone until they came to the surface.  Colonists had been establishing farms and people would occasionally see a large, unknown creature come up and poke around.  One farmer tried to drive away an explorer and the response was immediate. To hear his wife tell it, they swarmed out of the ground and took him.  She looked for him and it was a good thing she did not find her way into their tunnels or she may have really started something.  The farmer, James Somethingorother, was brought back the next day and said he had been treated well.  He was convinced that the Carrotians were sentient and were trying to communicate.  Eventually, I was picked at a town meeting to study them and see if I could establish communications."

            "You volunteered to be an ambassador?" Suzanne prompted.

            "They chose me," Doctor Plumber pointed out.  "I was living in town and had not really established myself on this planet.  I had been a teacher back on Earth and had raised a family before leaving.  I had a half-ass plan to offer services as a tutor, but the others asked me to go because I do have a degree in biology and they thought I was qualified.  It became a long-term project.  So, I moved here.   My husband was also asked to observe humans, by his family at the time.  It went well, once we were able to communicate, and we came to like each other."

            "His family at the time?" Suzanne observed.  "They're not his family now."

            "More like in-laws," Doctor Plumber explained.  "My husband has moved on, but the relationship is not completely over."

            Suzanne was about to ask a question when a door to her left opened and an alien walked into the room.  She tried to hide her apprehension.  The creature resembled a two meter beetle with long mandibles and antennae.  It was brown and without wings.  The creature paused and then approached Suzanne and extended an antenna.

            "Shake," Doctor Plumber prompted, shooting a glance at the bug. It took Suzanne a moment to understand what she meant.  Suzanne took the antenna in hand, tentatively, and gave the alien appendage something like a handshake.  It turned away and moved casually to the couch, where it flipped over and sat, exposing its leggy, pale-yellow underside.  Doctor Plumber put an arm around it.

            "This is my husband," she said.

            The creature reached out with the upper-right of its six legs and took the translation device.  It's hand consisted of six white tentacles that extended out of two opposing rows of holes in the shell that covered it's forefoot.  It put on the antenna-piece.

             "I apologize for being late," the device said in a mechanical monotone.   The bug had lowered its head, so that it was looking at Suzanne with its antennae curving toward her.  It blinked slowly and Suzanne noticed its eyes.   They were black and shiny like two obsidian jewels, set forward over its mandibles, giving it more of a face than an Earthly insect would have had.  Not like an insect's lidless eyes at all.

            "Quite all right," Suzanne said, a little too cheerfully.  "I hope you don't mind that we started without you."

            Doctor Plumber caressed the back of her husband's shell.  "I was just telling her how we met."

            "When I tunneled into your bedroom," the device translated.

            Doctor Plumber snickered.  "I did not tell her that story."

            "Please do," Suzanne invited.

            "When I moved here, I started to build this house.  I was working alone and it was a bit more primitive than what you see now.  I knew that at least one Carrotian was watching, I had seen him lurking nearby."

            "I was careful at first," the bug interjected.

            "I was trying to make something like a bed when I got up to find a saw and I tripped over his face."

            The bug blinked rapidly and the translator spoke.  "I thought she was outside and wanted to have a look."

            "So, you barged in," Suzanne added.

            "This is our home," said the translation device.

            "And Carrotians have their own ideas about property rights," Doctor Plumber added.

            "So, you stepped on his face?" Suzanne asked, chasing an amusing story.

            "I apologized, not that he could understand me," Doctor Plumber answered.   "And I backed away slowly."

            "In case he was going to attack you," Suzanne said.  She made a mental note to edit in a shot of his mandibles with that comment.  Doctor Plumber nodded.

            The bug was blinking rapidly again and his antennae twitched.  "What's funny?" Doctor Plumber asked.  It was silent while it's wife stared.  Then it adjusted the translator's antenna piece. "I never knew you were afraid. With us, when you enter someone else's tunnel, someone else backs up to let you by as a courtesy and sometimes an invitation."  Doctor Plumber nodded with understanding.

            "So, um," Suzanne paused and then addressed the bug.  "What should I call you?"

            "Hard to say," the device translated.  "We don't use names."

            "I call him honeypot," Doctor Plumber added.  Suzanne gave the camera an ironic look.

            After a pause, the mechanical voice of the translator spoke again.   "Footprint-face?"

            Doctor Plumber giggled at that.

            "Mr. Plumber?"  Suzanne wondered.

            "Might be confusing," Doctor Plumber pointed out.

            "Mister will do," Honeypot suggested.

            "So, Mister," Suzanne said.  "You tunneled into her bedroom."

            "I danced," Mister continued.  "I knew that she would not understand, but it was a start.  Eventually, we figured out how to communicate and began to study each other.  We became close.  Close enough that I missed her when I went home."

            "And you fell in love?" Suzanne observed with a forced smile.

            "Something like that," Doctor Plumber said, uncomfortable.

            "I invited her to share food," Mister commented.

            "To sample his honey," Doctor Plumber clarified.  Suzanne gave her a look that asked for more information.  "Honey is only for family.  One Carrotian eats and then makes honey in order to share food with the others.  It's considered to be personal.  Raiding someone's honey store is violation and offering honey is a come-on."

            "You make it sound salacious," Suzanne said, giggling.

            Doctor Plumber responded with a bit of condescension.  "It is, sort of.  The exchange of honey is quite intimate.  With them, sex has nothing to do with intimacy.  Most Carrotians don't have sex.  You have to take these things into account if you want to understand another species' culture."

            "So, for the sake of the audience, I'll ask," Suzanne said, looking greedy.   "How do Carrotians reproduce."

            "The few of them who are female have a harem of males and lay lots of eggs," Doctor Plumber answered.  Mister touched her arm and she paused while he gave his answer.

            "I've learned a lot about humans in my research, with my wife's help.  Fascinating differences.  Very few of us choose to be female enough to breed and those that do are compelled to reproduce.  Being a pregnant female is a career and she must be tended to while she lays as many eggs as she can.   Caring for mother and young is also a career and a high status one at that.  Mother, young and caregivers are entitled to the support of other families.  Many who choose to be male enough for fatherhood become caregivers as well."

            Suzanne smiled to hide her confusion.  "Choose to be male or female?" she prompted.

            "We hatch as children, but we don't pick our hormones until puberty," Mister explained.

            Doctor Plumber rubbed his shell and smiled.  "Carrotian children are something like caterpillars and are dependant on their caregivers, who are also their teachers.  When ready for puberty, each child chooses the hormones that will determine which genders it will develop into.  They have five."

            Mister fidgeted and the translator spoke.  "Your paper."

            Doctor Plumber leaned foreword.  "I wrote a paper about the development of Carrotians into adulthood.  You are welcome to include it with your interview."

            Suzanne's face lit up.  "Yes. Yes thank you, that would be a nice addition."  She knew that including a scientific document would open up a different customer base.

            "I'm glad I was able to write it," Doctor Plumber said with pride. "Normally, there is a social taboo against watching someone go through puberty, but a young person gave me permission to watch and take pictures for the sake of my research

            "Probably will not happen again," Mister added.  "People make fun of him for that."  Doctor Plumber rolled her eyes.

            "Sounds like puberty is inconvenient," Suzanne said.

            "We choose the time and place," Mister responded.  "It does not take long.  Young people are usually eager to have an adult life, with a career, home and family."

            "Eager to end childhood and have adult responsibilities put on them?" Suzanne prodded.

            "No," Mister said.  "Not anymore.  An individual chooses a career from the options available and picks a family.  A family must agree to accept that person, but most families compete for suitable members."

            "But it was not always that way," Suzanne observed, steering the conversation.

            "That's what my next paper is about," Doctor Plumber said.  "May I plug it?"

            "Go!" Suzanne said.

            "Coming soon," Doctor Plumber began.  "A history of Carrotian civilization and coverage of current events.  Read a first hand account of an alien civilization as they struggle against barbarism and build a modern existence."

            Suzanne paused.  "Current events?" she wondered.

            Doctor Plumber leaned forward.  "They are having a revolution," she said with a predatory grin. "The city below us is living the life of radicals."

            Suzanne stiffened and looked out the nearest window.  "Is it safe to be here?"

            "Safe as anywhere," Doctor Plumber said.  Suzanne was not reassured.

            "It's more like an enlightenment," Mister explained.  "If I understand Earth history correctly, before humans could know their own planet and travel into space, they had to discover their self-evident rights and discard the old way life." he paused.

            Suzanne nodded.  History was not her area of expertise.

            "Here, we have our rights and liberties, so we no longer live as slaves. It has been so for a few generations but, worldwide, the struggle continues.  We must also defend our way of life against pure females and their subjects."

            Suzanne leered.  "Pure females?  I'm a pure female."

            Mister fidgeted and Doctor Plumber caressed his back.  Suzanne waited, knowing she was on to something.

            "Honeypot, I think you'll need to tell her about it," Doctor Plumber said quietly.  "Humans won't understand your people if you don't."

            Mister moved his head slightly toward her and nodded.  It was obviously an imitation of a human gesture, but Doctor Plumber accepted it as communication.   Mister adjusted the translator and then seemed to relax.

            "Before our enlightenment," Mister began.  He paused.  "Is enlightenment the right word?"

            "Good as any," Suzanne prompted.

            "As long as anyone remembered, we were ruled by females.  Pure females who forced subjects to love them using a hormone.  The result was that each female ruled one large family and made all decisions.  Subjects had to accept the gender and career they were given.  Mixing gender hormones was forbidden and most people were made to be entirely of the laborer gender."

            "Uh," Suzanne interjected.  "I'm sure the audience would be interested to hear more about your genders."

            "Yes," Mister agreed.  "We have five genders.  Female, male, laborer, warrior and thinker.  If given no gender hormones at all, a person will develop into an entirely female adult. A large, powerful creature with an extremely temperamental disposition.  The entirely male, on the other hand, although fairly athletic tend to be apathetic and unsocial.  Someone who is entirely warrior is large and athletic but with limited brain development, as well as a thick shell and large mandibles, and thinkers are the opposite. Someone who is entirely of the thinker gender has a well developed brain, more even than the entirely female, but a weaker body.  However, without enlightenment, those four genders were elite, supported by laborers. To be entirely of the laborer gender is to be limited in development, mentally and physically, and to have a very short life span."

            "Females make a love hormone?" Suzanne asked.  The idea frightened her.

            "Yes," Mister answered.  "In large doses, it causes the victim to fall in love with whomever is around and, before enlightenment, ruling females saw to it that everyone in the family was dosed and made to fall for her.  It was how they forced obedience from their subjects and held together very large families."

            Suzanne looked shocked and sickened.  "They used love to enslave."

            "Yes, always," Mister answered.  "There is a word my wife uses.  Brainwashing."

            "That is a more appropriate term than falling in love," Suzanne observed.

            "There's nothing romantic about it," Doctor Plumber added.

            "What's it like?" Suzanne asked.

            "I have wondered that myself," Mister told her.  "I have had love hormone, but not in an overwhelming dose.  I wonder sometimes what life would be like without the liberty that our alliance of families has nurtured.  Not only to live with no choices, but to be entirely of one gender.  I would not be who I am."

            "But you have had it?" Suzanne wondered.

            "Families put a little in each others honey," Mister explained. "Only enough to feel close to each other."

            "And now, your family is Doctor Plumber," Suzanne calculated.

            "It does not effect humans," Doctor Plumber countered.

            "Your husband dosed you?" Suzanne asked.

            "I'm not female," Mister pointed out.

            "My in-laws helped me to experiment with Carrotian hormones," Doctor Plumber explained.  "As far as I can tell, none of them had any effect."

            "Sounds dangerous," Suzanne concluded.

            "I was careful," Doctor Plumber retorted.  "May have been risky, but I figured it might also be a pharmaceutical breakthrough.  I was especially interested in the hormone that causes the thinker gender.  Added smarts."

             Suzanne laughed softly. "No such luck?" she said.

            "I did confirm that the hormones don't effect humans, even in high doses," Doctor Plumber concluded.  "Good to know."

            "If you don't mind my asking," Suzanne began, turning to Mister.  "What is your Gender?"

            "I asked for mostly thinker with enough male so that I can mate, tempered with a little warrior and laborer," Mister replied.  "As a child, I dreamed of exploring the surface.  So I chose thinker for the scientific aptitudes and male for the wanderlust.  Normally, males are compelled to wander and look for new mates, whereas other people are not entirely comfortable outside.  A little warrior boosted my physical prowess as well."

            "But you also added laborer?" Suzanne noted.  "Aren't laborers underdeveloped and short lived."

            "Only if one is entirely laborer," Mister responded.  "Most people have a little laborer in their mix.  It makes one more patient and less temperamental.  Genders are like that.  Our females can be vicious but, in moderation, being female provides courage. Being moderately male makes one more independent.  To be moderately warrior provides physical development without the mental limitation and meanness of someone who is entirely warrior and a moderate amount of thinker helps mental development without causing physical limitations."

            "So, you are male enough for sex?" Suzanne asked.  She shot Doctor Plumber a look.

            "I don't think our way of breeding could be called sex," Mister explained.  I've donated my seed to a few females.  If someone is female enough to breed, she has an organ that stores seed from male donors for use in egg laying.

            "So you two haven't consummated your marriage?" Suzanne asked, trying to sound casual about it.

            Doctor Plumber laughed a loud, sharp guffaw.

            "What does the word consummate mean?" Mister asked.  The question provoked more laughter from his wife.

            When able to talk again, she leaned over and whispered into her husband's antenna.

            "I did not know that was an option," Mister said.

            "You must do something," Suzanne added with a knowing smile.

            "Yes, I do," Doctor Plumber said, matter-of-factly.

            "Which is?" Suzanne pushed.

            "None of your business," Doctor Plumber responded with forced calm.

            "We could give breeding a try, as an experiment," Mister suggested. "I'll give you my seed and you can lay a pile of eggs while you finish your paper.  I wonder what our children will look like."

            Doctor Plumber gave him an ironic smile.  "Right, sure."

            Mister blinked rapidly and Suzanne smiled slowly as she got it that he was joking.

            "It would be an interesting experiment," Mister said.  His mandibles clicked together.

            "I'm too old to be fertile," Doctor Plumber admitted.  "Suzanne, you appear to be capable."

            Suzanne did not know what to say.

            "Please help us with our research," Mister urged.  "You will be well taken care of."

            Suzanne shook her head.

            "You brought it up," Mister pointed out.  Suzanne was silent for a moment and Doctor Plumber bent over laughing suddenly, resting her head on mister's belly.  Mister blinked rapidly and his antennae twitched so much that the translator piece flew off and bounced.  He took a moment to put it back on.

            "Very funny," Suzanne said sourly.

            "Seriously, though," Mister began.  "I don't think it is possible, biologically."

            Doctor Plumber grinned a predatory grin,  "One sure way to find out," she commented.

            Suzanne looked at the camera-drones.  She was self-conscious, but she knew she would use the footage. "Tell us about your marriage," she said.  "It's unusual to marry outside your species?"

            "It is a first," Mister said.  "Of course, it was not an option until humans arrived."

            "And your in-laws had no objection?" Suzanne asked.

            "No right to object," Mister answered.  "Each of us has the right to choose our family, with the consent of the chosen, of course."

            Suzanne nodded.  "So, it's the law?"

            "Yes," Mister answered.  "We have four basic rights that protect our liberties.  The right to choose one's genders, free practice of careers, the right to assemble families and freedom from brainwashing.  To us, these are the self-evident rights of an individual.  It is my right to create a family with my daisy and our right to research each other's basic experiences is protected, as it is our career.  These rights are ensured so that we may achieve normal advancement."

            "Interesting," Suzanne said.  "So, you are not so much married as living together."

            Doctor Plumber spoke up.  "Human language does not have a term for our kind of relationship."    

            "It is a new concept for my people as well, but public opinion supports us for the most part.  Many are proud that our way of life will allow a very valuable alliance with humanity. I've delivered my research and taught others that humans have also discovered their rights and have advanced so far ahead of us."

            "What would have happened if humans had landed near an unenlightened bunch," Suzanne wondered.  "With entirely female rulers."

            Mister stiffened.  "I had not thought of that," he realized.  "They may have been attacked.  A person who is entirely female is territorial.  She would tolerate only one female in her family and routinely attack other families.  The vanquished family members are either killed by the victor or assimilated using brainwashing and then she leaves an egg in their home so her offspring can rule a family of her own.  However, the new ruler is not necessarily friendly and the result is a shifting set of alliances and rivalries between families.  Such people would probably treat humans as they do each other."

            "Kill them and take their home," Suzanne clarified.

            "Try to," Mister said.  "A conflict with people as advanced as humanity would be a disaster for us.  We are fortunate to be free of pointless conflicts."

            "So, the free Carrotians are anti-war?" Suzanne asked.

            "Pardon me, but I do not know that word," Mister explained.

            "Humans are not perfect," Doctor Plumber interjected.  "A war is a conflict between nations.  There are fewer reasons for war now, compared to ancient times, but it still happens."

            "So, free Carrotians don't fight each other?" Suzanne asked.

            "I wish," Mister answered.  "We are an alliance of free families that recognize each others rights.  However, if those rights are violated, either by one of our families or a family without enlightenment, there is the threat of conflict.  We try to resolve the conflict peacefully but we will assemble volunteers and stop the offender if negotiation fails."

            "And your alliance is strong enough to take on unenlightened families?" Suzanne wondered.

            "Easily", Mister answered.  "Their families are much larger but our families are united.  Also, our volunteers are more independent and flexible than they are."

            "How was the alliance founded?" Suzanne asked, fascinated.

            "When this area was ruled by unenlightened families," Mister began. "Three females were defeated and the victors chose several children to start new families.  Those children were in favor of our new way of life and their offspring founded our alliance.  This may have been planned by the laborers who cared for those children, who were left along with eggs in the empty former home of the defeated, or because, in the old ways, children were given careers arbitrarily whether suited or not.  Soon, we contacted an alliance in another area.  They sent volunteers and we were able to negotiate an agreement with our local enemies that recognized the civil rights of their family members and restricted the power of their ruling females."

            "I wonder how the first alliance was founded," Suzanne prompted.

            "It all started with one renegade thinker," Mister explained.  "She left with five volunteers, children that she had educated.  They made their home in a cave and founded the First Family.  The volunteers chose to be female and warrior, and they attracted a wandering male.  Of course, this was forbidden but, by the time the local ruling females found out, the First Family was strong enough to survive.  And their ideas spread to other families.  Meanwhile, in the area, two ruling females were being attacked.  Their enemies had formed an alliance and they were outnumbered.  They came to the First Family for help and agreed to give up their position and end brainwashing in return for being rescued.  Enlightenment has been spreading ever since.  Now, I have the freedom to bring human beings into our family and learn about their technology."

            "I see," Suzanne responded.

            "My husband is a dreamer," Doctor Plumber added with pride.

            "And do you share his dream?  Do other colonists?"

            "I do," Doctor Plumber said.  "The other colonists only want good relations and leave us alone for the most part."

            Suzanne squirmed uncomfortably.  "Are you at all concerned about what the Carrotians will do if they have our technology?  Our weapons?"

            "They'll have advanced technology sooner or later no matter what," Doctor Plumber pointed out.  "We won't abandon our colony and even if we did, this is a known planet and someone else would come here eventually.  Besides, I think our family will become something worth making."

            "You don't trust us," Mister observed.

            "Not all humans can be trusted," Suzanne said with a faraway look.  Mister blinked a bit but Suzanne did not seem to notice.  She was thinking of her own life.  She had spent her childhood on a base in a system where pirates and militia went at it, with ordinary people in the middle taking orders from whomever was in charge at the time.  She had escaped into space and used scandal chasing and selling videos to make a life for herself.  "Away from civilization, we tend to oppress each other.  It's not what most people want, but the few who make the attempt can ruin things for everyone."

            "While they make themselves into kings and ignore the rights of others," Mister added.

            Suzanne was surprised.  "Yeah," she mumbled.  "And Carrotians, away from their families, become purely female and enslave their children."

            "Not necessarily," Mister countered.

            "The best way to prevent that is to help the enlightened Carrotians," Doctor Plumber added.

            "And you expect more humans to join Carrotian families?" Suzanne asked.

            "Sure," Doctor Plumber said.  "For now, they have the subterranean world and we have the surface. But there's no reason why people can't go into each others environments."

            "And Carrotians just let the colonists take the land?" Suzanne prodded.

            "We're not using it," Mister pointed out.

            "They're not comfortable above ground and don't stay long," Doctor Plumber agreed.

            "It's too bright and we sunburn easily," Mister added.  "If we go to the surface, we go at night. Except for wandering males."

            Suzanne turned to Doctor Plumber.  "But you have been down there?"

            "For my research," she said.  "A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.  Dark, cold and wet.  Take a flashlight and a warm raincoat."

            "A human house is much more comfortable than being outside," Mister added.

            "So, you live here?" Suzanne asked.

            "This is home," Mister pointed out.  "And I'm male enough not to mind being on the surface.  Also, I visit often.  There is much interest in my research."

            "We built a stairway into a public tunnel below," Doctor Plumber added, pointing to the door that Mister had originally come through.  "They come up here sometimes.  Usually a caregiver with children."

            "Children?" Suzanne asked.

            "Part of their education," Mister pointed out.  "Something different.  Many of the caregivers want the little ones to meet a human."

            "They're cute," Dr Plumber added.  "Big friendly caterpillars with lots of questions."

            "It certainly sounds like a close relationship," Suzanne observed.

            "As my original purpose was a diplomatic one, I would call it an accomplishment," Doctor Plumber declared.  "I am relieved that I was able to earn a warm welcome for my fellow colonists."

            "You are welcome to come below and do some recording," Mister suggested. "Might be an addition to your article."

            Suzanne's face lit up.  "May I really?"

            "Sure," Mister answered.  Suzanne wondered what the inflection would be if Mister could actually talk, as opposed to using the uniform, mechanical voice of the translator.

            "I'll get flashlights," Doctor Plumber said.  She stood, caressed Mister's head and exited using a door leading outside.

            Mister seemed to quietly watch her leave, as his head was pointed toward her.  Once Doctor Plumber had shut the door behind her, Mister turned to Suzanne and the mechanical voice of the translator spoke.  "Do you have what you need to tell the galaxy what a couple of perverts we are, Suzi Scandal?"

            Suzanne froze, looking caught, and then asked "what?"

            "It is what you are here for," Mister stated.  Suzanne could not tell if it was a question or a statement.  She fidgeted, realizing that she had no way at all of reading Mister's meaning, so she did not know if she was in danger or what.  She eyed the alien's mandibles, which looked as powerful and sharp as a half-meter lobster claw.

            "This is not what I expected!" she blurted.  Mister did not move.  "When I heard that a human woman had mated with an alien, I expected to come away with my usual sort of story.  The truth is a lot more valuable."

            Mister blinked and Suzanne relaxed.  He spoke, "Go ahead and make it a scandal.  Any attention can only help."

            Suzanne looked perplexed.

            "Any attention would encourage people to know our species," Mister continued.  "Which will lead to an alliance between us and the human race.  Perhaps you will even take us to other planets."

            Suzanne thought.  "No," she said.  "The truth is a much better story than a scandal.  More attractive."

            Doctor Plumber entered the room, carrying two flashlights and two raincoats. "You don't think a sex scandal would get more attention quickly?" Mister asked.

            "You told her what you are up to?" Doctor Plumber asked from off-camera.

            "No need to lie," Mister answered.

            "That was your plan all along?" Suzanne asked.

            "I told you that they are smarter than humans," Doctor Plumber reminded her.

            Soon, Suzanne was dressed in a raincoat and carrying a camera and flashlight. She had reprogrammed her drones to follow her and given each instructions for recording on the move. She followed Mister and Doctor Plumber down the stairs and into a the dark tunnel beyond.  They moved slowly and the drones recorded good footage of the area.  Soon, they encountered a cluster of Carrotians coming the other way.  Mister stopped and touched antennae with them and they gathered around.

            They were smaller and sleek, feminine by human standards.  Mister explained that they were teachers on their way to where their family lived, combination thinker and laborer.  They moved on and foot traffic was heavier. Mister led them to a guarded corridor and Doctor Plumber explained that it was where their in-laws lived.  The guard was large, about the size of a ground car with impressive, sharp-looking mandibles and a thick body.  She saw them and touched antennae with mister before greeting Doctor Plumber with affection.  Mister explained that she was a warrior-female and that it was customary to have someone at the entrance just to let people know the chamber had been claimed.  The three went inside.  It was a compact maze of rooms and tunnels, some occupied and some not.  There were stores of honey and sleeping quarters arranged around larger rooms with belongings.  She noticed that some things seemed to be made of wood and had her drones take a closer look.  It appeared to be pulpwood that had been molded and dried.

            Mister introduced each Carrotian they met and Suzanne recorded them.  The home consisted of a large, central cluster of chambers with a tunnel leading out, one main room surrounded by sleeping and storage chambers.  Everyone was in the main room.  It was cool and water dripped lazily from the ceiling, which the Carrotians did not seem to mind or even notice.  The residents clustered around Suzanne and touched antennae excitedly, and she realized that they were talking about her.  Good or bad, she had no idea.

            Mister approached her.  "They have questions," he told her, using the translator.

            Suzanne smiled warmly.  The Carrotian family formed a neat circle around her and joined antennae.  Mister had one antenna placed in the translator and the other reached out and connected to an antenna belonging to the person next to him.

            "Tell us about where you come from," the translator requested.

            "I'm now living in an urban settlement on a hostile planet.  It's made up of sealed buildings centered around a place where visitors can buy what they need."  Suzanne paused.

            "Do you live there with your family?"  Suzanne saw one of the Carrotians move and figured that the question came from her.

            "No."  Suzanne thought for a moment.  "Humans do things differently.  I exchange what I write for what I need to get by."

            There was a pause and then Mister spoke through the translator.  "I tried to explain to them about money. It sounds like a lonely way of doing things to them."  He paused, distracted.  "Do you want family?"

            Suzanne nodded.  "Humans have friends, people who support and accompany each other, but it's not as close as a family."

            "Do you travel a lot?" the translator asked.

            "When I have to, to get a story," she explained.

            "Alone?" the mechanical voice asked.  Suzanne only nodded.

            The machine was silent and the Carrotians looked at each other. Suzanne noticed that a few of them were blinking.

            "If we ever do travel like that, we will go as families," the translator declared.  "What's it like, traveling."

            Suzanne shrugged.  "I get to meet people.  I see all of the new things that they create and the new ways of life they make for themselves.  I report on it to others."

            "You are a bringer of knowledge." he said.  Suzanne had a feeling that it was a significant statement.

            "You could put it that way," Suzanne responded, nervous.

            "Can some of ours come with you and bring knowledge to us?"

            Suzanne fumbled.  "I don't have a large enough space ship."

            "If you did?" he asked through the translator.

            "It would not be practical," she insisted.

            Doctor Plumber spoke up from where she had been watching the exchange, on the edge of the circle.  "Think of the story it would be.  You could cover a new specie's first steps into the universe.  Make it a series.  Big news and you would have an exclusive!"  She was overflowing with enthusiasm.

            Suzanne turned the idea over in her mind.  "To buy and maintain a sizable ship would be too expensive. Besides, I'm barely a pilot and it can be dangerous out there."

            "Can I show her?" Doctor Plumber asked.  Mister touched his antennae with the circle again and the translator said, "yes."  Doctor Plumber went to a sack made of wet pulpwood and pushed her fingers into it. She tossed something casually to Suzanne and the reporter caught it.  She examined it with amazement.  It was a diamond the size of her fist.

            "Keep it, we have plenty," Mister added.

            "They're deep underground, but Carrotians are good at digging," Doctor Plumber added.  "We haven't told the human colonists because someone might get greedy."

            Suzanne just stood with her mouth open.  Her mind raced.  Just one such gem could mean a new life for her and Mister said they had plenty. She realized that the Carrotians could have their own space ship built if they tapped such a resource and Doctor Plumber was right, she could turn it into a big, long-term story that would let her become a serious reporter, not one that just spreads gossip.

            "Thank you," she said with quiet awe.

            Doctor Plumber touched her arm to get her attention and then spoke with quiet intensity.  "Is it practical now?"  Suzanne nodded.

            Meanwhile, Mister had rejoined the circle and the Carrotians were silent but gesturing and Suzanne could see that they were having an excited discussion through their antennae.  The circle broke up suddenly and one of the Carrotian hurried through the exit.

            Mister attached the translator.  "We are hoping you will change your mind about helping us," the mechanical voice said.  "We will gladly exchange with you for your services."

            Suzanne thought before she spoke, and then began to babble nervously. "I think I can help.  A few of these stones could mean your own spaceship. And a better life for me.  I don't know if I can set it up, but..."

            "We would like you to meet someone," Mister said.

            "OK, should I..." Suzanne glanced at the exit.

            "She is coming here," Mister explained.  "wait?"

            Suzanne smiled.  "I'll wait."

            Suzanne and Doctor Plumber chatted excitedly while they waited.  Doctor Plumber invited her to stay in her home if she would be sticking around, and offered to set up a work station so Suzanne could put her interview video together.  Suzanne took the time to review the footage her drones had taken. Then the two women began planning and Suzanne became more enthusiastic about staying as they talked.  Doctor Plumber revealed that the human colony had brought manufacturing robots and other equipment and might be able to build a spacecraft if given enough time.  Suzanne offered to contact the people who she had rented her little, automated craft from.  For the right price, they might send a factory craft with specialists on board.

            The Carrotian returned, carrying a child on her back, just behind her head. The little one was a caterpillar about as long as a human arm, with a Carrotian face and active antennae.  She slithered excitedly off of her caregiver and approached.  Mister touched antennae with the young newcomer as more adult Carrotians entered and watched quietly.  To Suzanne's surprise, Mister placed the translator on the ground and helped the young one attach her antenna to it.

            "Hi!" said the translator.

            Suzanne knelt and smiled.  "Hello.  I'm Suzanne and it is a pleasure to meet you."

            "Suzanne," the child repeated.  She paused.  "I have been trying to learn human talk.  I will be changing very soon and I will be a female and a thinker.  I had volunteered to establish a family near the humans, so that I may learn and bring.  Please, I wish to be a bringer.  Please."

            "Oh," Suzanne said, drawing the syllable out, overwhelmed by the child's cuteness.  She had an idea.  "So, in our language, I will name you 'Bring'.  Would you like that?"

            "Yes," the child answered.  "Will you show me to be a bringer-of-knowledge like you?  Please.  Can you show me what's out there?  Please.  Other females can stay here."

            "Sure," Suzanne decided.  "If we really do make a spacecraft for Carrotians, I'll join you and show you around.  I can record it all, so I can bring knowledge of you to the people out there."

            The child reared up suddenly, making Suzanne uneasy and disconnecting from the translator.  Then she spun and weaved, doing a happy dance that made Suzanne giggle.

            The family formed a circle again and Doctor Plumber approached, put an arm around Suzanne and led her to a corner.  Suzanne explained that she would go to her contacts and arrange for a manufacturing ship.  Then she could cover the making of a customized spacecraft as a story.  Bring would go through puberty and take a thinker and female hormone mix.  She had already planned to have only one male with her, unusual for Carrotians but it would mean that she could take long breaks from debilitating pregnancy.

            A spacecraft manufacturer accepted Suzanne's offer and brought a craft with an on-board factory and a small, expert crew with him.  When he saw the diamonds and was told how many he could have, he committed to the project with enthusiasm.  Everyone called him Mr. Danver and he was clearly in charge.  His crew worked quickly and created what they called the Antfarm.  The upper decks were typical of a craft used by humans, but below was one large, open chamber which he filled with soil, to simulate the Carrotians' underground home. He also installed artificial gravity and made weapons.  He knew the Carrotians wanted to make friends everywhere they went, but it could be dangerous out there.  Besides, he did not want to let diamonds large enough for military lasers to go to waste.

            Before long, Suzanne was covering the launch of the Spacecraft Antfarm from inside the upper decks while Doctor Plumber and Mister recorded from the ground. She had sampled Bring's honey and the symbolic gesture had made her part of the little family that would explore the universe.  Her reporting had quite a following and invitations to visit had come from around the galaxy.  So, she sat in a cupola, topside-forward, recording the retreat of the ground and the approach of outer space as the Antfarm's quiet engines eased away from what she had come to think of as her home.  She turned to the drone behind her.  "Now this craft is my home!" she declared joyfully to all of her fans.



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