The sun was high in the sky when I awoke, and birds were singing outside in the garden. At least, I think they were birds ... and I think they were singing. It sounded more like someone was strangling cats than birdsong, but the little yellow feathered, winged, lizardy thing that was sitting on the balcony's rail, screeching its little heart out in toneless notes told me that it was the Dirrian equivalent of the dawn chorous.
I sat up and found T'Roc sitting on one of the sofas. She lounged leisurely on the settee, a piece of toast in one hand and a mug of something hot in the other. Steam rose from the beaker carrying a melange of fragrances. I detected notes of coffee and hot chocolate.
"Want a cup? Not sure what it is, but it's very good," she said and leaned forward to pour me a cup.
I climbed out of bed, tugging at the hem of my pyjama top and ran my fingers through my tangled hair to smooth it. They got stuck on the way, which made T'Roc laugh.
As I freed them from the mass, T'Roc said, "Thank your lucky stars you don't have Klingon hair. It may look glorious but one restless night is more than enough to make you consider a crew-cut."
I remembered the time when she had appeared at my door with Beastie in her arms. Her fuscia pink and lime green pyjamas had been startling enough, but her hair was evil! A thick, tangled mass of ebony tresses topped her head like a hapless bird's nest.
I took the mug from T'Roc, thanking her, and took a sip. She was right. It was very pleasant. I could detect some subtle vanilla undertones among the coffee and chocolate flavours too.
"Come on," she said. "You should get dressed. His Highness is waiting for us in the garden."
Indeed, as I looked out of the window, I could see the High Emperor sitting at a most peculiar scene, one more suited to an English Edwardian garden than an alien landscape. On the lush, green lawn stood a garden table and four chairs. It looked like they were made from wrought iron, painted white, but was more likely to be made of something lighter and more durable. Sitting on one of the chairs was the High Emperor. In front of him, upon the table, was laid out a tea set complete with teapot, sugar bowl and milk jug. He sipped a cup of tea—well, probably not tea, but that's what it looked like, with his pinkie finger outstretched, and was reading a newspaper—not a datapad, but a newspaper made of real paper!
"Surreal, isn't it?"
"What?" I turned, startled by T'Roc's voice.
"It's like something out of an Emily Brönte novel. Have you read Brönte?"
I had to admit that I hadn't. T'Roc tutted. "Shame on you. It's a Terran classic, isn't it?"
"No buts! I had to read both the Klingon and Vulcan classics. Doesn't seem fair that you've got away without reading any at all."
"They sound a bit heavy—Klingon and Vulcan classics I mean."
"Klingon classics have lots of gusto and are filled with the brave deeds of warriors seeking a noble death." Her voice lowered to accentuate the magnificence of the stories. "But once you've read one, you've read them all; while Vulcan literature is a little ... dry."
"So who's your favourite author?" I asked.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the answer I got.
T'Roc beamed a mischievous smile at me and whispered, "Terry Pratchett."