Ambitiosior stultitia is highly sexually dimorphic, like all the organisms in its ecosystem. It has trilateral symmetry and three sexes, (male, female, and neuter), again very similarly to the norm in its ecosystem.

The male Ambitiosior stultitia is a hemolymph drinker, with a sharp proboscis for that purpose and wings. The female, also winged, uses a similar proboscis to take milksap from sedentary pseudotrees. The wingless neuter is a photovore, feeding on sunlight.

But the true distinction of Ambitiosior stultitia is the final stage of its life cycle. Rather than mating, the three sexes spin a cocoon together and emerge after a pupal period as the mated form, which utilizes the nutrients gathered by all three progenitors.

This form, which is wildly dissimilar from the others, was initially classed as a different species. It has wings, is heavily armored, and emerges pregnant from its chrysalis. With no working mouthparts, its only purpose is to find and kill a suitable host in which to lay its eggs, after which it dies.

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Luckily, for people like Melody who couldn’t come to class–or people like Shanna who didn’t pay attention therein–the lectures were available online.

“Hey,” Melody said, looking at her screen. “The lecture video is 10 minutes longer than class takes. Did they like film people coming in and sitting down?”

“Well, it says ‘remastered.’ Maybe they added in some later stuff,” said Shanna. “Let’s see.”

The lecture video began, and immediately Melody scrunched up her nose in distaste. “That’s not his voice. He’s all squeaky, whoever’s talking now sounds really deep.”

“Look, that’s not him at all,” Shanna cried, pointing at the screen. “It’s somebody else!”

Indeed, it looked like some considerable effort had been taken with digital tools to replace the lecturer completely, body and voice.

“And what’s up with these slides?” said Melody. “They aren’t the same as the ones we saw before!”

“This isn’t a remastering of the lecture,” added Shanna. “He’s just wrecking everything that was good about it int he first place!”

Melody nodded. “Yeah. This is the last time I take a class from Professor Lucas.”

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Over time, as their panic faded, the lost sparrows of Clan Oesoedd began to understand that they had been strangely blessed. Although sealed into the home of the giant hawks by the mysterious solid air with no hope of escape, they came to realize that it was a land of abundance.

The great striders moved in large numbers but also dropped vast amounts of food, indifferently leaving it as they strode off to be devoured by the giant hawks. They, unlike the striders in the World Beneath, never sought to harm the Oesoedd–the only danger was their innate clumsiness. Some even fed the sparrows, and all their leavings were carried away by slow, whining strider-piloted behemoths.

Echyd busied himself exploring the vast spaces and found a number of trees. Some were mock trees of the kind old Yn had once spoken of, but others were real and suitable for nesting. Chwi and Awr put a nest together as an experiment, to see whether the great striders would react violently as they sometimes did. Filled with unfertilized eggs, the nest lay undisturbed, and Chwi was granted permission to bring forth a brood.

Perhaps the greatest benefit Echyd and the Oesoedd sparrows came to recognize was the lack of llew, predators. The giant hawks came and went, devouring striders and regurgitating them for some unseen young, but seemed to take no notice of tiny sparrows, and certainly did not hunt them as the llew hawks did in the World Beneath. Dai and Ac even took to watching the hawks’ inscrutable movements, claiming that it inspired them. And there were no llew cats or llew dogs of any kind, save the very occasional one in a cage–a situation Echyd found devastatingly funny, given Yn’s tales of sparrows held captive by the striders in such cages.

Elections for homecoming royalty were always a hazard, McClernan thought. The groups of sorority girls, always clad in matching too-big t-shirts in bold primary colors, relentlessly pushed their candidate of choice on hapless passersby and streamed across campus roads in droves. Strategically placed groups of women blocked every access point to campus and every thoroughfare between major buildings.

They were everywhere.

And they were well-prepared.

Drilled in late-night sessions over the past month, the pledges were prepared for every dodge and evasion that McClernand could summon.

A group of girls canvassing for Phi Qoppa’s candidate jumped him on the way in. “Vote for Brandy!”

“I”m a professor,” McClernand said. “I can’t vote.”

“Tell your students to vote for her after class, then!” They formed a human phalanx and wouldn’t let McClernand proceed until he’d taken a stack of fliers to pass out to his biology students.

Another group hovered near the cafeteria at lunchtime. “I’m a graduate student,” McClernand volunteered.

“We have a candidate for Graduate Council too!” they said as different fliers were unleashed.

Walking between Hurley Hall and Davis Hall, another group accosted him. “I’m just visiting,” he said.

“Tell your kids to vote for Mindy and the Qop Sigs!” the lead girl said.

“I don’t have any kids,” McClernand returned.

“Well, when you have some, tell them to vote Qop Sig.”

“I don’t ever plan on having kids. Can I go through?”

The head girl fixed McClernan with a steely, patrician glare. “Nephews? Nieces?”

By the time he arrived at Davis, McClernan had promised his niece Susan’s vote to three different sororities in perpetuity, despite the fact that Susan was three years old and in Connecticut.