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Chapter 6: The Wedding

Willie whips out a harmonica and starts playing the wedding march from Lohengrin, doing a decent job of harmonization. Cathy whistles and our supervisors clap. Nonetheless, although Charlie hugs Diana, he is not exactly ecstatic.

Charlie: I really hope we're doing the right thing. Mr. Chernik, we never asked you anything. Do you have any comments?

Mr. Chernik: Some reassurance. You talked with me very frankly, Charlie, about three months ago, and from the blood samples we knew when this deal was going down, not to the day, but to the half month. Simba, I heard you ask Tiger if she was sexually mature. If the females had been behind your progress, we would have headed you off months ago. If it's any reassurance, Charlie, the supervisors worked out mate pairings some time ago and came up with the same results you did: Charlie and Diana, Adam and Elsa, and a toss-up for the rest. I'm proud of you people; I wish humans handled mate selection as maturely. Now, I'd like you all to be charming. While you were negotiating, Mrs. Ragland and the younger kids went ahead (against my recommendation, I might add) and put together a wedding banquet. Obviously it can't start until we have the brides and grooms, which we now do, and they're waiting for you.

Elsa: Food! Lead me to it.

Leo: Let's try to keep speeches short, and anyone who wants to talk has to take it out of his feeding time. Speeches during eating. OK? Mine will be about three sentences, if I'm called on.

Mr. Lewis: So you're not too exhausted to do the banquet thing?

Me: No, Mr. Lewis, I'm hyper! Yes, tired, and I think the banquet should have a definite end after which we should come back here and finish a couple of loose ends. Easy loose ends. And then rest. But I want to show off to the staff. Charlie, how about you?

Charlie: I'm strong as a lion and tough as nails! I can hardly believe that I've gotten myself married at sixteen lion years. It's going to take a lot of hard work for me and for Diana, but we're going to succeed. I may take more hits but I'm just that much tougher. I really thank you people for having confidence in me, and particularly Diana, and I'm going to do my best that you don't regret taking me on.

Me: Diana and Elsa and I aren't even sixteen!

If she were human, Diana would have blushed.

Ms. Holbeck: OK, the procedure is this, following human custom. Willie in the lead; can you play that thing while walking? Then Cathy. Then the couples, let's see, inverse age order of the males, males on the right. Arm in arm; I'll show you, and get your tails at a jaunty angle. Don't look like a bunch of businesspeople. Supervisors following. We're going to the conference room, and when you get there, play it by ear. Lions take seats at the table on the north side, males on the right of each pair, unless someone has put out name signs on the places that say differently.

Mr. Chernik: Are we all ready? Willie, move out!

The conference room is decorated in festive white and pink crepe paper, and light streams through the roof level windows. Under the four supervisors' careful guidance the party is a lot of fun. Speeches are short. Food is good. Photos are taken. We have sparkling apple juice to drink, which I like. Mrs. Ragland has made two cakes, and I'm careful to leave stomach room for my piece. I notice that I'm stuffing my face and not talking much to Tiger. She is doing the same.

Me: Am I being inept in conversation? Should we be talking about something, I mean not business, but what's that phrase? Small talk?

Tiger: I was kind of thinking the same thing. But it seems stupid to make conversation for no reason. My goal right now is to rest and recharge for this afternoon's work, whatever it's going to be. Are you unhappy with that?

Me: Not a bit. Look, they're serving the cake. Awww, they put our names on the pieces in pink icing! Somebody put a lot of work into this. Thanks, Mrs. Ragland!

After everyone has finished their cake and gotten extra apple juice, Mr. Chernik makes the announcement.

Mr. Chernik: OK, people, I hate to bring the festivities to a close, but the lions have some business to take care of and I think it's time for them to withdraw to their area. Humans, you can stay and finish up the food. Lions, if you need the supervisors we can come, but I'd prefer to have another piece of cake and some coffee. OK?

Back in the males' yard we mill around trying to decide where to sit.

Me: Forget the computers; this won't take long. OK, OK, move them if you want; mind other peoples' wires. Ready? We have to decide who goes in what room.

Charlie: If other people don't mind too much, particularly Diana, I would really feel a whole lot more comfortable if I could keep my territory.

Me: Diana, it's important for him. OK, Diana? Good; we'll start with that assignment.

Charlie: I think a minimal solution, that moves the fewest people, goes like this. I stay. Diana moves into Simba's room next to me. Her neighbor is Elsa, who doesn't move, and Adam moves into Diana's spot. His neighbor is Leo, who stays, Alice takes Adam's room, and Simba gets Alice's room.

Tiger: If we're going to be, you know, this is really weird to say it, but if we're married, we ought to consider it family territory. I intend to have Simba on my territory and I hope he'll reciprocate.

Me: Um, yes, but I have an objection. I really think we should limit the assignment to just these exchanges, and each couple should individually work out the details. Don't push Charlie.

Tiger: OK, sorry, like I said, I make what I think are obvious choices. For other people. Sorry, Charlie.

Charlie: Don't worry, I know how to say no.

Me: I'm kind of reluctant to bring this up, but, well, I'm not hyper-territorial like Charlie, but I was just imagining myself waking up over on the other side, and, well, the way the light is here, I'd miss it. I wonder if anyone else feels that way. It would probably mean that everyone would have to move. Forget it.

Charlie: Let's at least try a permutation. On this side we'd have Diana and me, plus Simba and Tiger. That leaves Alice and Elsa in place. Leo moves instead of Alice, and Tiger has to move when she didn't before. What do you think?

Tiger: It's uproar on one side or uproar on the other. If Simba likes the dawn light I'll go along.

Leo: It's not like I enjoy moving around, but if Simba is going to be happier in my room he's welcome to it.

Me: Thanks, people, I owe you one.

Tiger: May I make two suggestions? First, I really don't want to get tangled up with dragging chests and beds through the hall right now. Can we do the actual move tomorrow? We'll move our laptops and toothbrushes and that's all, today. Any objections? Second, Simba and I were talking at the banquet and it got me thinking. You know I'm independent, and I'm going to say this. I'm not going to think about what other people expect me to do. I'm going to do things when I'm ready. I'm ready now to share territory; Charlie isn't. I don't care. And maybe someone else is hot to trot; you know, in stories they go upstairs right after the banquet and bang, bang, bang, and they pour a vial of sheep blood on the sheet to make it look like she's a virgin, and hang it out the window. I'm going to mate when Simba and I are ready, and I hope Simba can be patient because it's not going to happen ahead of time, and I don't care if other people are faster than I am. Sorry to throw cold water on a happy occasion but I'd rather say it now politely than snap at someone later.

Me: I'm patient. Actually, I'm nervous. I don't mind taking it slow. Let's put away our computers in the new rooms, and then I suggest we melt into the forest, find a patch of warm sun by couples, not all together, and kind of let the situation soak in. OK?

And that's what we do. Tiger and I end up at the rockpile, taking about half an hour to get there, walking kind of randomly in the fragrant forest. We normally run it in under ten minutes. We climb onto the cracked gray granite. The friendly sun sparkles on black mica flakes.

Me: This rock has space for both of us. You know, remember the GED trip? On the way back I leaned on Dr. Franck and Charlie leaned on me and it was nice. I slept all the way home. Do you want to... lean?

Tiger: Yeah. It's kind of nice. I leaned on Alice. I'm starting to be able to say the word ``married'' without giggling. How about you?

Me: I'm not too steady with it yet. Your muscle feels awfully thick. May I feel?

Tiger: I think if we're going to be a mated pair we should be able to touch each other without permission.

Me: I hadn't thought about that. I guess you're right. You have bigger muscles than I do.

Tiger: I've always been strong, and I keep myself that way; I do extra exercises like handstand pushups, because I have kind of a hobby of gymnastics and you need strength for that. What's your mass? I'm 62 kilos.

Me: 57 kilos for me. You do exercises... What am I going do with a female? I don't mean button three, I mean how are our lives going to change?

Tiger: Yeah, what do you do with a male? Let's go through a day, leaving out sex for the moment. We get up. We exercise, me more than you.

Me: With you so far. Eat. Lessons; I do math first because I need my mind fresh.

Tiger: I can't take math early. Anything but that. Often writing.

Me: I could change.

Tiger: I don't think we have to do exactly the same thing at the same time. We could try it and see if it's more fun, but if not we should go back to our own schedule. Agree?

Me: Yes. At the break I do social things. Charlie is the one I'm closest to, but I want to socialize with Adam and Leo and also get to know the other females. Um, does that make you feel bad?

Tiger: I want you not to mate with them. I want you to have more relation with me than with other people. If we're going to be a mated pair it has to be like that. But jeez, we'd go bats if we were stuck together every second. Certainly you should get to know the other females. Just keep your penis in your pocket.

Me: OK, OK! I know how to be a mate, at that level.

Tiger: Like I said, I'd rather say it now, than slash later. Now there is something: usually I'm social, but sometimes I get into a snit; I don't need a reason. If I say I don't want to visit, don't try to drag me, just go. You understand?

Me: Yes. I can get snappish, but a visit usually steadies me. OK, what's next, more lessons. Then lunch. You said you like both physical and mental games. How are you at Indian wrestling?

Tiger: Better than you.

That's a challenge. We jump off the rocks onto forest ground and square off. The result is a tie, five to five, a good sign. Then we do the tag game. I'm slightly faster in a straight line while she can catch me in corners. Exhausted physically and panting, we hug.

Me: Let's go back. I think we're done here. You know, I asked what do you do with a female, and you said what do you do with a male. Do you sometimes sleep over at someone's room, the other female lions or the human kids? We've been describing what I would do with another person; that's what I would do with you person. Does that make sense?

Tiger: I think so, except it's permanent. You read in stories about lovey-dovey romantic, but most of the time we're going to be doing our lives a lot like we always have been. You know, before we go back, there's something I'd like to ask you without the others around. What do you really think about sex?

Me: Well, what exactly do you mean? I like how it feels when I do it. Semen is gross. Kittens are going to be a pain in the ass, but I like the idea of teaching them. When we were leaning, you know this is going to be hilarious in a couple weeks when we tell the others, but when I squeeze my penis after the orgasm, you feel together with the partner, and when we were leaning I felt like that. Do any of those answer you?

Tiger: The idea of someone's organ squirting semen up my vagina is gross. But the together feeling, I feel it too when I practice mating. Of course it's just to an imaginary partner. I think I could psych myself up to go through with it. How about you? Is this rushing?

Me: One part of me says it's too quick; the other part says I want to be close to you. You want to try now?

Tiger: No, dummy, in Leo's room, on his mat. I don't like the idea of pine needles and bark chips up my vagina.

So we return to the Lion Foundation building. We put up ``do not disturb'' signs. We each press button three and lay on the mat side by side. I probe her vagina. Nothing happens. Nothing happens for ten minutes, and my penis gives up and goes back in its pocket in disgust.

Me: I guess I'm not mature enough for this yet.

Tiger: I psyched myself up for this and I'm not going to let it go. Let's rest for a few minutes and try again. OK?

I'm not happy, but I go along. I psyched myself up too, and lions don't give up easily. We hit button three again and I probe.

Tiger: There's something missing here. Don't poke me, massage my hole. Make me want to open up. And you know, I could use some tail action on my clit.

I'm able to do both, but it doesn't seem to be helping.

Tiger: Stop, don't burn yourself out again. Let's think about this. When I do it with my finger... Do it a couple times; let me feel. I think I've got it: you want to get your penis into my vagina.

Me: Well, I thought that was the whole idea.

Tiger: It's the ultimate territory violation. Inside me! No way am I going to allow that! I don't like the sound of what I'm feeling, but it's what I feel.

Me: I don't like it either. What can we do?

Tiger: We can use our brains. What should we be feeling? Not what does someone expect, but what's going to make this work?

Me: We can't just turn on feelings like a water faucet. Look, I really don't think an analytic solution is going to pop out. I feel bad about what's happening. Would you just be with me? Just kind of lean?

Depression isn't going to help. We have several years to work through or work around whatever our sexual problem is. We'll just have to bear it, and I'm not going to let other people make me feel embarrassed at not fulfilling standard expectations about marriage. Tiger is with me, and seems willing to stay with me and back me up, and that's what is really important for a couple, what makes them successful. We've had lots of lessons on that, with fictional and real-life examples of successful and not-so-successful couples.

Tiger: I like you with me like this.

Me: I've been thinking about lessons. Being together is what's important. Sex can wait.

Tiger: Look, we do sex to be together, right? That's what it says in the lessons. We don't do it over territory. I've got an idea. Hit button three again, but don't even think about sticking your stinger in, OK? I'll know. Just lean. Be together with me. You can stroke me with your tail, I'd like that, but forget the clit for right now.

Leaning is nice with button three on, and with our tails we make each other feel really together. Even if we can't mate properly, we should do this often. I'm surprised to find Tiger maneuvering so my penis touches her. I clear my mind of desire for anything more than being together.

Tiger: It's open.

I very delicately, not at all like I had practiced, slide my penis through the opening. I try for a Zen-like state of non-desire, not entirely successfully, but I am very gentle as appropriate for a guest on, or in, Tiger's most central territory. The end buttons touch. Our programs start. Things begin to happen. Very intense things. My mind is filled with being together in a lake of liquid fire. Even after the last drop of semen has been transferred, I am overwhelmed with being a couple together, and speechless. We both are. After about twenty minutes the nerve programs shut off and our sex organs disconnect, but we still lean against each other on the mat, looking into each other's eyes.

Me: I think we're married.

Tiger: So do I. Sorry to break the spell, but I can't look into your eyes on infrared; we'll have to turn on the lights. And my arm has gone to sleep. Would you mind if, how to say this delicately?

Me: If we're together at a slight distance? I'm not feeling exactly practical right now, but I guess it's over. No, we shouldn't say it that way. We'll have to resume this later. How's that?

Tiger: You're sweet. I have another need too: food. Would you find out what's happening for dinner, because my arm isn't awake enough yet to work the keyboard.

Me: OK, booted up. Who's sending me mail at this hour? Charlie and Diana want to talk to us. They say it's not critical but a response today is, as they put it, hoped for. Before or after dinner? Mrs. Ragland has bao dze, fresh ones, real simple as dinner.

Tiger: Hmm, let's get, no, we visit them and we suggest that we all bag some bao dze and eat them over there while they talk about whatever it is. OK?

We knock on Charlie's door, but he pops out of what was formerly my room. He and Diana have forgotten about dinner, so we all troop to the kitchen. We compliment Mrs. Ragland on how good the bao dze smell, and put two of each flavor on our plates using tongs. By the time we return to my, formerly my room and sit down on the mat, the steamed dough on the outside is cool enough that we can pick up a bao dze briefly with claws and nibble, being careful not to burn our mouths.

Charlie: Question number one: The way I've got the room set up, are we setting ourselves up for a fall? Am I overdoing the territory thing?

Me: You always overdo territory. You'd better explain the issues because I can't see territory issues like you do. All I see is that this isn't your room. I mean your former room. And beds in the middle of the floor are bizarre.

Charlie: I hope you don't mind too much. I decided that bringing Diana into my territory was going to be too hard for me, and it was going to work better psychologically if we take new territories in abandoned space, and turn my old territory into, you know, like the kitchen: it's my territory, or ours, but I don't watch for violations there any more as long as you're basically courteous, like knocking on the door.

Me: Right, it's not my room now, it's yours. My territory is elsewhere now. And my stuff, I assume. Tell me how you set it up; I'm looking right at it but don't see.

Charlie: See how everything is lined up? On this side is mine; on that side is Diana's. We've moved our desks in here together by the window, obviously, on opposite sides of the border, and we put your furniture in the other room; you can get it tomorrow or when you're ready. The exercise mat has to be behind the desks. And obviously the beds have to be together on the opposite side of the exercise mat. They can't be apart. There's plenty of room to walk around them, if that's what you're worried about. See, we can be together but not violate each other's territory.

Me: Well, I'm glad you didn't put tape on the mat to mark the line; that would definitely be overdoing it. It has a certain logic, now that you explain it. Diana, how do you feel about a rigid border?

Diana: It's going to take getting used to. But Charlie's not that rigid; I can come on his territory without asking, but he's the boss there, and I'm the boss here. That's what the border represents. I was actually a little worried about getting bossed around and having to snap at him, and I think this way I'll be happier. But I've never heard of anyone behaving like this and, well, can I tell you something? I mean, I'm not embarrassed about sex, but I wouldn't normally go around broadcasting we did this and we did that, but what we ended up doing is so different from what I expected. OK, we lay down on opposite sides of the border and talk about being together. We aren't even thinking about sex; we're just tired and need a break. Well, after about fifteen minutes, a real good talk, the lessons come up about sex bringing people together. And Charlie asks, suppose we're running territories, as we are; what does it mean to mate?

Charlie: See, my body is on this side, but my penis would have to be on her territory. I fire up to show her what I mean and to try out the feeling myself. It's really weird. I don't mean sexy, I mean suppose a part of your body goes off visiting, you know? OK, it crosses the border. It's on its best behavior. I can be charming if I work at it, and so can my penis; before I know what's happening we're locked together and I'm giving her my semen. Really together! I can't cross the border, but my penis can, and it can get us together just like the lessons say. Now our question is, I'm weird, absolutely weird. I know that. But are we so weird that we're going to get hurt down the line? I'm going to ask Dr. Deutsch, but what do you think?

Me: What do I think? I'm jealous! We figured out the secret, but it took a long time, we had to start over several times, and we almost gave up. It sounds like you got it right on the first try. I'm jealous!

Tiger: I'm jealous too. But I have a suggestion. The border isn't something to keep you apart; it's the symbol of being united -- the interface. Think of it that way. And make a virtual border that you can have wherever you are. For example, suppose you get the urge for pine needles and bark chips, and you do it in the forest. You need to bring your border with you, see? Does that make sense?

Me: I don't think you're going to hurt yourselves. When Charlie is involved, a different kind of logic comes into action. It may be wrong for me and Tiger, but that doesn't make it wrong for you.

Tiger: Actually the virtual border idea makes a good metaphor for us too, I think. If you don't want that bao dze, I could finish for you. That was question number one, as I remember. So what's number two?

Charlie: I do want the bao dze. Question two: I couldn't think past the mate thing before, but a bunch of old worries have popped up. Summary: where do we go from here? Specifics: let me show you my lesson list. See the history; what's the next lesson set after the one I'm within a week of finishing? There isn't one. I checked last week; understand I wasn't able to totally appreciate the consequences, but only Leo has two lesson sets ahead of him in any of the major threads, and that's because Leo isn't progressing as fast as the rest of us in science and math. I'm not blaming the staff or anything, but we have a survival issue and I think we need to do something about it. Any ideas?

Diana: Like I said before, books. You've gotten a lot out of your history books. I'm amazed.

Me: Yes books but. When we have to hit the books for our main topics, it means that we've outrun the staff. We're on our own. I'm not sure I want to hear that right now.

Charlie: You want to continue when we don't have so many new things happening? Maybe in a week or two?

Me: It won't get any easier, and I don't like threats hanging over me. Tiger, are we together?

Tiger: Together. When the human kids outgrow their local schools they go to college. Maybe we're seeing the signal that our turn is coming soon.

Diana: It's always been kind of assumed that we would go, to get the training we'll need for our jobs, whatever those will be. I don't have any idea what's involved, though.

Charlie: I think you people have it figured out, while it was right in front of me and I didn't see it. Let's find out about college. Agreed? Enlightenment is but a mouse click away. Query: college. 86,244 hits, please narrow your search. OK, I'm going to take the first hundred items. Let's categorize the titles. Would you two go get your computers and help me with this? Run NetBoard. Lots of college descriptions, selection, party ratings, credit card plan, SIC codes of jobs obtained by graduates, ethnic congeniality, most of this stuff is crap.

Me: On session. Let's start with selection; the rest is irrelevant until we know that. Click. Here's a quick summary of what it says: the key is to pick a college where you can learn what you want to know in a style you can cope with and at a price you can afford. The input data we need is: What do we want to know, not necessarily the same for everyone? We know the teaching style we like, but how flexible can we be? And how much money can we get the Lion Foundation to pay?

Tiger: Hold on! I want to see this link and I think we should look at it together before starting Simba's task list. Flies in the ointment: why students don't finish college. Even in the ninetieth percentile of test scores, as many as half of the students end up with major regrets.

Me: I'll bet we're in the hundredth percentile, from the lion training.

Tiger: You know what that says to me? Confounding variable. There's something important the tests aren't measuring, and I think they're trying to tell us what it is, and let's see if our lion training applies to it. Get the picture? Fly number one: time management. Assignments late, payments late, we won't have that problem the way our supervisors have leaned on us. Fly number two: financial problems. Obviously, don't have them. We find out what we can spend, like Simba said, and only look at colleges we can afford.

Diana: Suppose we can't afford any?

Tiger: Then we worry. Fly number three: money management. It says, if you spend a lot on clothes -- not a problem for us -- and food and ski trips you can easily end up with not enough to pay your fees; see item two. They have to eat, don't they? But I have a feeling I'm missing something here, and we need to learn a lot more about money management than how to buy large fries and a burger. Agreed? We should ask for a coordinated lesson set on that. Fly number four, those are cute fly graphics. Focus. You're supposed to learn as much from extracurricular activities as from school teaching. If the balance is all to classes you're missing the college experience, so they say, but if the balance goes the other way you're missing the main thing you're paying for and can also get kicked out of school. See item one. I have a bad feeling about this one. I get the impression that at a college your supervisor has a specific list of lessons that you're expected to finish at particular times. Unlike our setup where we make judgments about how much we need to know, and what order, and when. They're talking about extra activities like sports and parties. I'm talking about class issues where our goals differ from the supervisor's. We had better watch out for that one. Item five, alcohol and drugs. Item six, sex. With particular reference to spending too much time in unsuccessful mate selection, see item one. Those items are irrelevant. So we have to learn money management, and somehow find out more about the focus issue. Is everyone with me on that? Good. Then let's split up the tasks Simba listed and see if we can make any progress. And the remaining person should choose one of those college descriptions at random and see if there's any other issue we need to check.

It doesn't quite work out that way. It turns out that the financial reports of the Lion Foundation are in a private directory but we, the lions specifically, have read access. OK, just what is included in an account receivable? And what's an encumbrance? It looks like this place is encumbered to the gills. A web search turns up a financial dictionary on one of the big mutual fund sites, and it makes very interesting reading.

Diana: OK, if we go with Mr. Rothko's projection of lion person action figure sales and assume the stuffed animal contract is renegotiated as he predicts, and counting the lion education trust fund, then for the minimum legal funding ratio on staff 403(b) accounts, we can squeeze out maybe $400,000. It's about $300,000 if the 403(b) is funded the way Mr. Rothko recommends. We're looking at 40 to 50 thousand per lion. That seems like a lot. Let's look at some college descriptions and see what their fees are.

Me: Look at that list: Brown University. California State University at Los Angeles. Morehouse College. I've never heard of any of them. I'd like to filter the set of colleges to ones we might want to go to. Then we look at fees of those. Make sense?

Diana: Kind of. OK, web search. College selection. 628 hits. Look, if I restrict to a topic area we might get something useful.

Tiger: Tell it science and see what happens.

Diana: 95 hits. Here they are. Bingo: guide to college selection for science and engineering majors.

Charlie: Moi, an engineer?

Me: Maybe not, but we have to start somewhere. Hit it.

Diana: OK, what kind of science or engineering? The form wants to know.

Me: Jeez, I have no idea! I'm good on computers; Tiger is better; Charlie is a military officer; and I have no idea about you.

Charlie: Moi, a soldier? Just record everything; I'll have to do it over with my own weirdness, but we have to make some kind of choice to make progress.

Diana: OK, let's choose computing. Next, what is your PSAT score? What's a PSAT? New window, click, a prediction of how well you might do on the SAT, click, predicts how well you will do in college. PSAT scores range from 20 to 160. Let's give ourselves 160's. OK? Now it wants the preferred size of school.

Tiger: Don't get swell-headed. We probably will do well on the SAT, like on the GED, but remember the confounding variables. What are the choices for size -- tell it ``show all''.

Diana: OK, annual tuition, we can afford $12K. Click. Financial aid, what's that? New window, this looks complicated. Let's finish the other form. Let's specify the highest tuition, then figure out the financial aid issue, and then throw out schools that are too expensive. Click. List of schools. These three columns look like some kind of quality rating. Number of students, 100,000? 600? That range seems awfully wide. Tuition. Estimated annual cost. Apparently there are some major cost items beyond tuition. Location. And URL's to the college descriptions. I'll save this page. What do you think about reading the first eight right now?

The descriptions are not very productive. Clearly the colleges are different, but we have trouble to understand the significance of the differences. A generic description of any of the eight colleges is: Outstanding computer science department, at the top of its field. Dedicated world-class faculty imparting cutting-edge knowledge to our undergraduates in a small class setting. Most advanced massively parallel photonic compute engine. Abundant cultural opportunities. Diverse student body. Graphics of smiling students, various human categories, showing lots of skin on a sunny lawn or a sports facility or both.

Me: I'd like to show you something on the Stanford page. ProFro or junior thinking about applying: sign up for admit weekend now. Meet real students and attend real classes.

Diana: One of mine had something similar, but a few weeks after Stanford's.

Tiger: Mine too. The other had campus tours but nothing formal. And Stanford isn't on the east coast. How much does it cost? Nice, it's free, but transportation is going to be expensive. But look, think of it as a test case. Let's send out fire team A to gather intelligence, and we have another chance soon after, if Stanford doesn't work out. Let's take a break and get some hot chocolate, and then try to figure out the financial aid page, and start on a list of items fire team A is supposed to find out.

Charlie: Check your clock icon. Hot chocolate, yes, but it's midnight and we're due up at 0600 tomorrow. Also we're making decisions without the other lions. Let's try to set up a meeting tomorrow with the lions, the supervisors and Mr. Rothko. Jeez, why not the whole staff; it's their 403(b)'s we're talking about spending. If I were human I'd be yawning now.

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