What was your resolution?” Becky asked.

Crystal flushed slightly. “To stand up for myself more often,” she said softly. “I wish I had picked something more concrete, though. I think I did pretty good, but what if they don’t agree?”

Becky laughed. “Easy, just complain about it. If you can stand up to them, they’ll have to admit you met your goal.” That got Crystal to laugh.

“Is it weird that this is starting to not be weird anymore?” she asked.

Becky considered that. “Maybe a little.” She glanced at the Myldav which was examining the food on the table, presumably deciding what was safe for him to eat. He looked almost human, but the skin was a deeper shade of red than you’d find on Earth and the proportions weren’t quite right. The limbs were too long, the nose to short. It wasn’t enough to make him look creepy (or at least, Becky didn’t think so), but it stood out. “I think we’ve got a long way before having an alien at a New Year’s party is normal.” She frowned. “Or is it aliens? I’m never sure how to count Myldavs.”

“Technically there’s only one Myldav there,” John said, joining the women’s conversation. “One Myl inhabiting one Dav.”

“Yeah,” Becky said, “but how many aliens does that count as?”

John just shrugged. “Crap, Pete’s coming. Stop talking about aliens.”

Sure enough, Pete stomped over to the group, looking angrier than usual. He didn’t wait for anyone else to bring up aliens, though.

“Can you believe it?” he almost spat. “Who invited that thing to the party?”

Crystal blushed again, which was answer enough. “He asked. They said he… they…” She stumbled over the pronouns. “Whatever. Trees hadn’t been to a party before. How could I say no?”

“So much for being assertive,” Becky said, playfully. “If you go around letting aliens go to parties just because they ask, they’ll shut down your bracer for sure.” John shot her a look, but it was too late.

“And there’s another thing,” Pete said. “Where do they get off judging us like that? Setting up hoops and making us jump through them.”

“He is sorry to interrupt,” the Myldav said in his almost toneless voice. Everyone jumped. They hadn’t heard him approach. “But your analogy is flawed. The Watchers do not set up the hoops. The idea of resolutions came from your culture. The Watchers have merely chosen to reward people who strive towards improving themselves. And your participation in this project is completely optional.”

“Hi, Trees,” Crystal said, clearly trying to sound casual. “This is Pete, John, and Becky. Guys, this is the Sound of Wind Blowing Through Trees.”

Trees nodded its head. “It is nice to meet you. Crystal has been very kind to both of us. He hopes you will be equally kind to us.” Although he gave a look that made it clear that he did not expect it of Pete.

Pete didn’t miss it, either. “I’m not going to toady up to a spy just to get a better bracer allowance.”

“You misunderstand,” Trees said, and Becky thought she could hear a trace of annoyance in his voice. “We are not associated with the Watchers. He has agreed to submit reports to them, but these are his general findings on Earth, not individuals. He also cannot help but notice that you wear a bracer. If you object to the exercise, why do you participate in it?”

Pete just glared at the alien, before storming away.

“Forgive him,” Crystal said. “He’s just stubborn.”

The Sound of Wind Blowing Through Trees watched him go. “He… forgive us, your pronouns are limiting. This one,” and he tapped his head, “does not understand that one.” He pointed at Pete. “The Watchers are merely encouraging traits that will help humanity enter galactic society. This is a good thing, isn’t it? Your dreamers write beautiful stories about exploring the stars. Why does he find it unpleasant?”

“I think he just doesn’t like being told what to do, even if it’s just a suggestion,” John said.

“Maybe he will resolve to try to learn why humans like Pete feel this way. He hopes the Watchers will find this goal admirable enough to make up for the limited success he may have with it.”

Becky cocked her head to one side. “You do the whole resolution thing, too? I thought that stopped when the Watchers let you join the rest of the galaxy.”

“The idea of celebrating the new year by promising to improve oneself is a human tradition. The Watchers find traditions on every world they help, but he thinks few are so easy to incorporate. Once you are accepted into the galactic society, though, you will be given the means to power the bracers yourselves, rather than relying on the Watchers for it. However, when we came here, we agreed to obey all laws, both human and Watcher. That means if we want to use our bracer, we must make resolutions as well.”

“Speaking of resolutions,” Pete said, “It’s almost midnight.” Becky looked at her own bracer. Only seconds to go.

“Ten,” someone yelled.

“Nine!” The rest of the room picked up the count.

“Eight!”

“Seven!”

She’d done well this year. She’d hit the gym more often and lost far more weight than the goal she had set for herself. She was sure to get a nice allowance for the next year.

“Six!”

“Five!”

She had never figured out what her next resolution would be.

“Four!”

This year’s had been too easy. She wanted something more ambitious.

“Three!”

She wanted a good allowance, of course, but it was more than that.

“Two!”

She wanted to help prove to the Watchers that humans were good. That they were ready.

“One!”

Maybe she’d try to meet more aliens this year. To try to understand them better.

“Happy New Year!”

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