Chapter 4: As the wheels turn.
The buggy ride turned out to be no where near as bumpy as I had thought it would be. Having grown up in a rustic country area in my own time I had rode a few of the older types of wagons that just had wood and metal band wheels. This one it seemed used pneumatic ones at least in some respect. I looked out the glass window of the buggy as we went down the road. There seemed to be a lot of people either riding buggy's as we were though not near as nice, even more walking, and even some very futuristic looking recumbent style bicycles in various configurations ranging from just a rider, multiple riders, and even cargo carriers with four wheels. The thing that caught my attention though was the lack of motor vehicles. Puzzled I asked the headmistress about it.
"Such things are not permitted inside the city's except in special areas" she said with a bit of a smile. "Even though we have done away with the pollution of the autos from your time produced by switching to hydrogen based engines the people prefer to keep them out of site. They usually travel certain left over and rebuilt highways between the city's, and once they arrive they are unloaded or loaded in ports. Other means such as cycles or buggy's distribute the goods threw out the city."
We rode for a while longer as I pondered that. Of course it had not hit me earlier, but for a naturalistic race in this time they would want to do away with old human flaws and mistakes. That we definitely shared since I myself felt as if I could breath better even in the middle of the city. The only thing you could smell even at the hospital were the scents of nature all around with the occasional gust of horse droppings. As I had been raised in the country that at least didn't bother me like it would someone raised in the city's away from animals of that type. I was all but glued to the window as I watched everything go bye until she tapped my leg to get my attention pointing to the other side of the buggy. I looked at what was on that side and was amazed at what I saw. Rows and rows of buildings with what looked to be modern semi trailers backed up to them with buggy's and cycles moving on the other side either leaving or bringing in loads. A fence separated the two sections for safety I guessed. It sort of reminded me of an airport with tractors brining trailers in and out, but that wasn't the real surprise At another fenced area the semi trucks sat. Larger than they seemed they should be, but as I watched one leaving the yard I saw why. It wasn't pulling just one or two trailers. By the time I was unable to see it as we went by I counted eleven total. Only one thing came to mind to describe that. A road train like they used to use in places like the old Australia. Another example of progress in my opinion. If they had highways just for them then there was no need for them to waste fuel and trucks hauling small loads with other cars around. If they are the only thing on the road it was safe to carry more.
Not far past that when I was just about to look at the other side again the buggy turned down another road. Soon enough we started going down a gentle incline until we entered a tunnel of sorts. Shortly after entering I started hearing familiar sounds, and as we made out next turn I spied trains. None like I was used to seeing though. These more resembled an old bullet train though they were bigger. As I looked as far forward as I could threw my window I watched as the buggy pulled up to the side of the train near a large ramped opening.
"Now then" she said getting my attention again just as we were about to stop. "Stay right with me, pay attention to where you are going, and speak to no one unless I ok it. This place is easy to get lost in if your not careful."
As we stopped the door came open almost immediately The headmistress rose, and as she exited a hand was offered to help her down. She wasn't kidding when she said they were treated like royalty My turn came and as before I felt myself being lifted. As I was sat down though I was reminded of my barefoot state when my paws met cold stone. The headmistress was talking to someone who was dressed in a uniform. I guess they worked for the railroad. Keeping one ear on them talking about storing the buggy and horses so as I knew she was still there I took glances around here and there real quick noting things here and there. Never long though looking back to the headmistress to make sure I was still with her. Soon enough though she started moving away and I followed right behind her. A couple cars down and we turned into one of them. Again being shown the best of care both in attention as well as the car itself. It was well decorated in a nice soft carpet. Lots of wood furnishings, and knowing that it had to be more to it because of its size soon spied a stairway to the upper level. As the headmistress spoke to someone else inside the car I peaked around and quickly spotted a diagram of the car, and its layout. The bottom where we are now held four personal bedrooms, and what looked to be some kind of meeting room. Upstairs was dining, kitchen, and lounge. I was brought back to attention as I heard my new name being called. The headmistress kneeled down in front of me before holding up a necklace for me to see.
"Now then" she said showing me the design on it. "this necklace has the seal of the school on it and will identify you as being from it." Turning it around and placing it over my still cloaked head it rested around the front of the cloak quite visibly. I slipped my paw out to hold it out away from myself so I could look it over as she continued. "This is what a guest would normally wear since they can't wear the school uniform to identify them. From now on no one knows of your past, or your details. You will act as if you were a proper student during the trip to the school. Once we are there and get you settled in we will start thinking about your future, and how to integrate you into it."
"Yes Headmistress" I said putting the necklace back down where she positioned it.
"Good. Now I suggest you get some rest. We will be on this ride for the next two days" she said moving her arm around my back and guiding me to one of the rooms. "this will be yours for the duration of the trip. Anytime your outside of this room you must be wearing your cloak and necklace. Inside your private room though you may remove them."
Opening the door for me I took a quick peek around before stepping inside. Being told ahead of time I suppose the room had been decorated in a style that was a bit childish. I guess I should have expected the splashes of bright colors around the room mixed in with the fine wood details. I turn just as the door shuts guessing that she had decided to leave me to exploring my room. Looking back I notice that there is a large window right over the small dresser. Moving over to it I pull the curtains wide. Not much of a view as we are still in the station though. Just the hustle and bustle of people and cargo moving around. Something struck me as odd though. When I was looking at the train from the outside I never saw any windows though clearly there are. Then I understood why. They were using that funny pant like they used to use on old city buses that was normal if you were outside, but totally clear from the inside. Neat trick I thought to myself as I carefully removed my cloak and necklace hanging them both on a hook in the small closet on the side of the dressers. I could watch out all I wanted, but no one could see me. I gave a little yawn and didn't realize till just then that I was actually a bit tired. Taking off my shirt and shorts I folded them up. Not wanting to just toss them on the floor I opened a drawer to set them in. To my surprise though my cloths were already there from my trunk. A little surprised I started looking in the rest. One drawer had my shirts and shorts while another had the thick and thin diapers. Shrugging though I looked further and found an empty one. Not seeing a hamper for the dirty ones I just sat them inside for now. Giving one more yawn I crawled into the overly bright bed in nothing but my diaper. Not bothering to change to a thicker one since I figured for a short nap I would be fine.
I must have dozed off really quickly because the next thing I know I;m being woke by a knock at the door. "Yes" I asked threw my speech unit.
"Lunch is in fifteen minutes Miss" I hear a females voice come from beyond the door.
"Thank you" I replied only catching a moment later that she called me miss. I shrugged it off though since they probably assumed that I was a girl since I was under the care of a girls school. As I woke though another need made itself known in the wet diaper I wore. "umm...ma'am where is the bathroom?"
"To the right and threw the door that looks like a mirror" she said quickly. I guess she was waiting by the door.
"Thank you" I tell her and slip carefully off the bed moving over to the door I had just thought was a full height mirror. Looking closer I see a little knob on one side. Giving it a little tug the door slid into the wall. Clever I thought as I stepped inside. Looking around I see what you would normally expect to see in a bathroom although much nicer than you would expect. Large tub, potty, sink, and a hamper. Going back into my room I take out first the dirty cloths I had earlier, and a fresh diaper. Going back into the bathroom I first toss the cloths in the hamper. That out of the way I pull off the wet diaper. Looking around the sink I find the usual washcloth, soap, etc. Over near the wall too was a small footstool. Guessing that I would need it to reach things it had been placed in my bathroom. Moving over to it though I started to lift, and was going to carry it over only to have the top step open. Looking inside were a few other things that I guessed they thought I would need because of my needs. A bin of what looked like baby wipes, small plastic bags to put the used diapers in, and a few other things. Grumbling a bit at the reminder of needing such things I was half tempted to just use the soap, and washcloth, but thought better of it. Best not to do something they might get mad at me for when they went to the trouble of supplying this stuff. Sighing I use the wipes and clean myself up before putting on the fresh diaper. Wrinkling my nose a little at the baby powder scent it left behind I toss the used diaper in the little bag then in the trash. Grabbing a fresh pair of shorts and shirt I get dressed trying to get my mind off of it. Grabbing my cloak, I put it on before placing the necklace around it as I had been told.
As I open the door I start to go out and immediately almost bump into someone I looked up with my paw still on the door to see who I guess was the lady that was talking to me earlier. A bit surprised I didn't realize she would be waiting for me. Getting over the initial surprise I close the door and start padding to the stairs with her following behind me. I move up them and into the second floor to the dining table. The headmistress was already sitting there patiently waiting on me I guess. Moving over to the seat I was pointed too I was actually lifted into it and into a booster seat.
"Sorry I'm late" I said as they started serving us. "I had a bit of trouble finding things."
"Thats understandable" she said before placing her napkin in her lap. "Just make sure your on time from now on, and ask someone for anything you need."
"Yes Headmistress" I said imitating her and placing my napkin in my lap after flipping the edges of my cape back to free up my arms.
The lunch was mostly centered around a lesson in etiquette. Being that most of my life before had been around the middle to lower class I had never attended a function where dinner table rules were stricter. They seemed to have a rule for everything from how you pick things up to what you should eat first. I had to say that must have been the longest, and most frustrating lunch I had been too. I sighed as I took each lesson as something I would have to get used to. One thing I noticed is most of the second floor other than the kitchen area was lines with windows. Not only could I see that we were well underway, but zipping threw a large open field. To my surprise though as I looked left and right between mouth fulls were rows and rows of vertical wind generators. I brought this up to the headmistress and she nodded as we finished.
"We have adopted only clean forms of energy in our society, and redefined it to increase its efficiency many times past what humans did. This one wind farm powers the entire state alone. Its the same with other forms of energy. Geo thermal, hydrogen fuel cell, and a few others. No form of fossil fuel operated machinery exists in our world."
As the meal ended I couldn't think of what she had told me. Taking the time after dinner I moved over to the little lounge next to the dining area and sat to watch the scenery pass. It explained a few things to me about what I had seen in the city. No motorized vehicles, no smell of internal combustion engines, no nothing. No form of air pollution at all. Thinking for a moment I went downstairs, git my reader, and came back up again. Her comments made me curious as to what else they had accomplished for a clean world. Finding the proper book in my reader I started reading what would pass as a history book from what was guessed about the end of the time of man to the earliest form of current writing, and beyond. One such innovation was in their electrical needs and why they used so little. Think of normal light bulb verses an led bulb from our time in energy usage. The led bulb uses much less. Now think of the led bulb vs there modern equivalent in the same way. If I had it figured right our old led bulb used enough energy to power about a thousand modern ones. They have done so much to be able to use so little. Even this train I discovered was a combination fuel cell and electric system. No diesel motor to pollute the air between. The big trucks running between the city's were similarly designed. Before I realized it though I had been so into my reading that the next time I looked up it was because the setting sun had found its way into my eyes. Looking around I see that they are preparing the evening meal. Another meal, and another lesson in the manners of high society.
Night time and I find myself back in my room getting ready for bed. In my thick diaper, and sleeping shirt I find myself sitting on the dresser looking out the big window. We were passing by some town on our rout not even going threw it. The lights from a distant looked pretty from here. Looking up I got an even better view of a clear sky with almost nothing to detract from the view of the stars. Wanting to watch them for a while more I decided that I'd make myself more comfortable. Pulling the cushion off the bench at the foot of my bed I laid it up like a small mattress. Funny thing is at my current size it actually fit me perfectly. Tossing a pillow up at one end and pulling a blanket with me I laid watching the stars in my makeshift bed. It seemed that they had a bit of familiar comfort to me as I was able to pick out a few constellations that I could remember. The moon was also out, full, and quite large. I remembered reading in one of my books mans last attempt to save themselves was trying to colonize the moon. No one ever knew what became of them since civilized man went the way of the dinosaurs shortly after, and the current culture had no interest in trying to get past the planet. I could however just barely make out what could have possibly been one of their domed colony's.it was very doubtful that anything would remain other than their past.
Next morning I find myself being shook awake. I don't know when I had fallen asleep, but it was now early morning, and the headmistress was standing next to me with a confused look on her face.
"Why were you sleeping up here" she asked looking over my temporary bed. "Was there something wrong with your bed?"
"No" I replied as soon as I had my wrist device and choker speaker on (taking them off to sleep). "I was watching the stars and fell asleep." I looked at the clock on my wrist device and made a face that she seemed to have caught as disappointment
"Well its time to get up, and start your day. You should get used to it since it is school practice" she informs me as I put the cushion and pillows back.
"Even if I'm not actual in the classes" I asked as I grabbed the stuff I needed to change for the day and went into the bathroom. I close the door almost all the way, but leave it cracked enough so that I could hear her properly.
"Yes. You should get yourself into the habit of going by our schedule" she reply's as she starts to move out the door. "Breakfast is in in two hours" she states as she leaves.
Two hours eh? Thats more time than I had last time, and enough time for a quick shower. I defiantly needed it after just quick cleaning myself last night and wetting again last night. Turning to the combination shower tub I set the water quickly, then hop in. One thing I discovered since my change is it takes a lot longer to wash when you are covered with fur, and takes a lot more shampoo. What they had in here smelled very nice too. A very heavy strawberry scent. After my shower I used the built in air dryer before stepping out. I was surprised that my fur actually seemed to be shinier today than it has been since I woke. I could only think that the shampoo and conditioner were much better than the stuff the hospital had. A quick brush down with the small bristle brush of my fur coat before moving to my thicker brush for my hair soon had it glistening. Getting dressed and up to breakfast I was glad to see that I was just a little early since I hadn't even thought to look at the clock since I woke earlier.
The rest of the day passing much like the earlier one.
In the afternoon as I was sitting in the lounge one of the staff came up to me and told me that we would be arriving within the hour. I was instantly awake looking out the window. I could just barely see the outlines of a town past a large lake. Knowing that I really didn't have anything to prepare other than myself I took the chance to get a good look at what was near where I would be staying for a while. The lake itself was quite clear with all sorts of docks around it, and small boats on it fishing. I had read that they farm fish here as a renewable food source when humans used to over fish wild fish for food. The buildings seem to be a mix of stone and wood giving it an older style although they were all modern. Soon enough though the train started to slow, and soon I felt a small bump and a tiny lurch to the side. When I look out the other side I see another track moving away from us and the bump lurch made sense. We had switched tracks to move into the city. Soon enough we slowed even more then taking a small decent we went into another underground station. Picking up my reader I walk down to my room just as the headmistress was coming out of her own. Quickly placing my reader inside where I knew it would be magically packed away for me before joining the headmistress at the door.
I felt the train slowing even more until it came to a stop just as I reached the bottom of the stairs. I was just about to the door as the headmistress walked out of her room. She looked me over once to make sure I was dressed as she had told me.
"From this point on you will be seen as a Representative of the school in public even though you are not a student" she said getting back into that stern attitude I had seen her as on the very first day. "You will be taught proper etiquette while you stay at the school. Failure to do so will mean you will be punished as if you were a student though the method of punishment will have to be changed for your circumstances. Stand up strait, and walk with your head high" she said as a final instruction as the door opened and we walked out. Another buggy was waiting for us a little ways away, and right away I could tell it was different. For one it had a giant painted seal on the door matching the one on my necklace. Private one for the school it seems. Next it wasn't quite as sleek as the other one had been. Open top instead of enclosed, and a more rustic appearance. After being helped into the buggy once again we were soon off. I took a last look back at the train just as our things were being removed and placed into another buggy. Separate delivery I suppose.
We were soon moving down the concrete way to a gentle ramp until it opened up once more. The town I could tell just as we made a right turn onto a paved road was just as I had thought it would be. Rock and wood design, but all of it seemed to have been done in a modern style. I looked this way and that as we passed down the road at the different buildings. Shops ranging from what looked like cloths, shoe, dining, and offices. Most people were walking while chatting away down the sidewalks to one shop or another. One shop caught my eye as we were stopped at what counted as a red light for the town, and not because of the shop itself, but who was standing in front of it, A small group of teenaged looking girls all wearing the uniform from the school. They spotted the wagon, and just stared. I guess it only took them a moment to spot me sitting with the headmistress as we pulled off because my sensitive ears were catching phrases like new student and wearing a cloak. I peeked back at them as we rounded the corner and one in particular seemed to be staring hard at me.
"That was Miss Anaya" the headmistress said catching my attention as we rode on. "she and her friends are the head of most of the social events of the school, and some of our best students. Her father happens to also be a major supporter of the school. Due to the situation though I think it best if we avoid contact with other students though."
That gave me pause. "If I am not to socialize then what will there be for me to do" I asked.
"You will be permitted to come into town on the weekends supervised of course, and during the week you will have private classes from the staff. You may not be a regular student, but I see no reason you should just sit idle either."
That gave me something to think about along the right and quite detracted me from the rest of the ride. I had expected to be separated from the students, but not like this. It was like I was going to my own private school within the school, and one with possibly stricter rules. I don't know why, but my mind kept coming up with worst possible scenarios for each thing. So wrapped up in my thoughts I never realized we were here till a thud of a heavy large door opening brought me back to what was going on around me. We had passed threw a large gate, and now were moving inside a walled courtyard. I recognized the stone wall work from the picture of the school, and knew we had arrived Forgetting my thoughts for the moment I looked around at everything I could. A large building sat in our path at the end of a circular drive. Beyond that another wall stretched to either side. I guess it was to separate different sections of the school. A sign on the outside read Visitors, and Administration. It made sense to me in a way. Have a place where people could come to the school, and keep them separate from the student population. The buggy stopped at the door and we were once more helped out. The headmistress wasted no time standing around though and wordlessly started walking towards the door. Right on her heals it was opened for us just as we approached.She led me inside, and immediately I was in awe. The floor was the most beautiful white and blue marble looking stone with a light blue rug going down the center for walking on. I peaked this way and that looking at as many things as I could without falling behind. It took all I could do though not to stop and stare at a large painting at the top of a set of wide stairs we were now going up. Turning at the top we walked down to one door and stopped. The sign said Headmistress on it so it must be her office.
"Stand here" she said pointing to a spot beside the door "and speak to no one until I return."
"Yes Headmistress" I said and watched her go inside.
Standing around I got a chance to look at things. The woodwork, and stone all were mad to look old, but if you looked carefully you could see that they had been milled and assembled with modern methods. The sealant and stain on the wood almost made them look petrified. The floor on this level didn't have the same marble as down stairs had. Instead it had more of a darker purple tone than the blue below. The carpet going down the center also was a bit more of a purple. I was looking back at the painting again. It was about that time that I heard the sound of someone clearing their throat behind me. Turning quickly I look, then have to look up to a couple of the students that happen to be staring at me curiously.
"Hello I'm Arla" the elder said. "Whats your name?"
I just stood there a little surprised. Here I was supposed to be avoiding contact with the students, and here they were. I tried to think of what to do. I was told not to speak to anyone. I didn't want to seem rude, but I also didn't want to get in trouble either. Not replying to her fast enough though she spoke again.
"Its usually considered nice to respond when asked a question" she replied a bit stern I was immediately reminded that this was a higher class school, and of course the students would reflect that. "Whats the matter? Can't you speak" she asked with that same firm tone.
I could do nothing though, but look back at the headmistresses office then back at her. One thing did occur to me though. A way to reply without breaking my instructions. Slipping one paw out I pointed at her door, then made the little zipper across the lips sign hoping that she would understand. After a moment of confused looks though I saw her eyes brighten and she lost the stern tone.
"Oh I see. You were told not to speak" she said in understanding. I nodded making her smile. "My apology then for sounding harsh." I watches as the other girl tapped her on the shoulder before whispering something to her too soft to hear. She got this odd look on her face before looking back at me again "May I see your hand please?"
A little surprised at her request I did so without thinking. She took my paw in her hand gently turning it over and looking at it.
"Pretty fur" she said looking this way and that "and a little unusual. You have claws instead of fingernails"
I was taken back. I had totally forgotten that difference and pulled my paw back under my cloak feeling a bit nervous. Here comes the teasing I thought to myself for being different, but it never happened. At just that moment the door to the headmistresses office opened and she stepped out. Looking at me first then the girls before addressing them.
"Was there something you needed lades" she asked in a firm tone.
"No Headmistress" Arla said.
"Then I suggest you move along then" the headmistress told them. They gave a quick nod before moving off quickly. The headmistress then looked at me. "Did you speak to them?"
"No headmistress" I replied. I heard a little noise from the direction of the stairs that told me Arla must have been standing there when I had used my speaker before hearing quick footsteps.
"Good" she said as she started walking towards the stairs once more motioning for me to follow. We went up one more flight, and around till she stopped at a door. Opening it she ushered me inside.
"This will be your room for the time you are here. You will find everything you need. Your things were delivered and unpacked while we were waiting." walking threw I saw that it was two rooms fairly good sized. "The main room is where you will eat, lounge, and have your classes by instructors that will come by at a scheduled time during the week." Moving over to what passed for a baby class of desk, blackboard, and a wall calendar expanded to show different times per day and not just the day themselves. "We will see what classes you need and adjust them according to what we discover is a proper level for your current knowledge. The weekends will be free unless there is a need for something. Any questions?"
"No Headmistress" I replied. She just nodded at me before walking towards the door.
"One more thing" she said turning with her hand on the door knob. "Your meals will be brought up to you by one of the kitchen staff. All the staff have been advised of part of you being here, but not all of it. Tell them no details" she said before pulling the door closed.
I was once again left to my thoughts. Looking around the large rooms that would be my home for quite a while trying to take it all in. Taking off my cloak and necklace since I was now in my own private room I thought to myself that this might not be too bad.