The rough sound of paperwork sliding across more paperwork. My antennae quivered, my legs flexing. Across the desk sat a human, peering through thick glasses at the document in his her hands. I always hate this stage, when the surprise must be masked with polite curiosity. “A puka? We don’t see many puka applying for the position.”

Puka. Carefree, breezy, tricksy. The wild folk of the woods and mountains, shifting guises as easily as a spring day changes mood.

Studious Alistair is a puzzle to many. And I’m no great help on that front; insect familiars are very unusual, it’s true, but I’m very helpful. I like order and structure just as much as Al does, so I help keep his meticulous office all the more meticulous. With so much order, Al was able to study all sorts, and now has a knowledge worthy of sharing.

“You have excellent records and recommendations.” Eyes peered over the thick glasses at us, always drifting to my dazzling shell before returning to Al. “Well, I’m sure you’ll fit right in with the professors here, Alistair. But you’ll have to forgive my asking – is this your familiar, or a little hitchhiker?”

Al glanced at me fondly, stroking a long fingertip gently down my horn. “This is Beetbug, named long ago by my infant sister. Don’t worry, Beet is more than we’ll behaved.”

“She looks it! Far better than some of our other professors’ familiars. Watch out for the crow, he relentlessly steals glasses.” The woman sighed, absently checking the chain that dangled from her own frames. “I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted hunting mine down.”

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